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West Branch woman accused of purloining hydrocodone

A mix-up at an Iowa City pharmacy has resulted in a woman from West Branch being charged with a serious misdemeanor. The woman, who was a medical assistant at the Steindler Orthopedic Clinic at the time of the incident, is accused of obtaining a controlled substance through prohibited acts. The woman was arrested on Wednesday, although the incident occurred in July, and it seems that even a misdemeanor prescription drug charge may be a bit of a stretch.

According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the 38-year-old West Branch woman dropped by the pharmacy in July and picked up 10 prescription orders. Nine of those were for another person, and the woman claimed to be that person’s caretaker. She dropped those nine prescriptions off at the other person’s porch later that day.

The trouble arose when the other person came to the pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions and discovered they had already been taken. The person didn’t have a caretaker and had not authorized anyone to pick up the prescriptions, which he or she didn’t realize were at home on the porch.

The tenth prescription the West Branch woman picked up was for hydrocodone, a prescription painkiller often sold under the brand name Vicodin. It’s also a Schedule III controlled substance, and having it without a valid prescription is both a state and federal offense. Since the woman wasn’t charged with illegal possession of hydrocodone, it seems likely she did have a prescription. The other person did not have a prescription for the drug.

Unfortunately, the woman charged all ten prescriptions to the other person’s account. That may have been a simple mistake, but it apparently seemed quite suspicious to police. When they questioned the woman, she said she had simply meant to surprise the other person by taking care of the errand.

The woman lost her job at some point since July. She also finds herself facing a misdemeanor prescription drug charge months after the alleged event. She was held overnight and released on Thursday.

Whatever the truth in this particular case, being charged with even a misdemeanor can have extremely serious consequences, especially if it’s drug-related. Any drug conviction can make it far more difficult to find a job, particularly in the medical field, along with challenges with housing, professional licenses, and federal student aid, among others. Such charges are not trivial and are well worth disputing.

Source: Iowa City Press-Citizen, “Woman charged with illegally obtaining drug,” Mitchell Schmidt, Dec. 12, 2013

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