- Associated Press - Friday, October 18, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Board of Pharmacy is pursuing disciplinary action against three pharmacists and their former hospital over excessive painkillers ordered for patients by an intensive care doctor now charged with 25 counts of murder.

The pharmacists and Mount Carmel Health System can request hearings with the board before it decides whether to revoke their licenses or take other action over the citations issued Thursday in connection with deaths at the former Mount Carmel West hospital in Columbus.

Messages seeking comment were left Friday for the pharmacists or their attorneys.

Two pharmacists, Nathan Kochheiser and Gregory White, were cited for verifying large doses of the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Another pharmacist, John O’Connell, was cited for supervisory failures in reference to 28 cases in which nurses overrode controls on automated dispensers in non-emergencies to access drugs ordered by Dr. William Husel for patients who then died.

Husel, 43, was fired in December and has pleaded not guilty in one of the biggest cases of its kind against a U.S. health care professional. His newest lawyers have shied away from publicly discussing Husel’s motivations , but his previous attorney said the doctor was providing comfort care to dying patients, not trying to kill them.

Husel was charged only in cases involving 500 to 2,000 micrograms of fentanyl. Prosecutors argue those amounts are so large that they point to his intent.

No one else is being prosecuted, but Mount Carmel fired 23 nurses, pharmacists and managers and made other leadership changes. It also publicly apologized and said it has since improved its drug-safety policies and is cooperating with related investigations.

Kochheiser and White had previously been named in some of the wrongful death lawsuits filed against Mount Carmel and Husel. At least a half-dozen more pharmacists also were named in some of those lawsuits, but the pharmacy board said it isn’t issuing any other citations connected to the case unless it becomes aware of additional information beyond what it already investigated.

Mount Carmel has agreed to more than $13 million in settlements so far over deaths of Husel’s patients.

Mount Carmel West closed this year under a plan that was in the works before the allegations about Husel came to light. The drug distribution licenses hit with the board’s citations are now held by a Mount Carmel emergency room serving the same area west of downtown Columbus and Mount Carmel’s new hospital in Grove City.

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