Nurse arrested for drug theft

Posted: Friday, July 17, 2009

A registered nurse was arrested Wednesday and charged with stealing a vial of a prescription narcotic from her workplace, Bartlett Regional Hospital.

The Juneau Police Department arrested Victoria Peppenger, 58, on Wednesday after an anesthesiologist reported suspected drug tampering. The anesthesiologist had used what was ostensibly fentanyl - but later identified as a saline solution - on a patient to no effect.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate applied intravenously. It's used as an anesthetic and in other forms as a pain killer.

Sgt. Tom Bates said Thursday that the investigation is ongoing and he could not say whether the apparent theft was an isolated incident or more widespread.

Hospital Chief Operating Officer Debbie Lehner said she could not answer any questions about the nurse, citing confidentiality as a personnel matter. Asked about potential public safety issues at the hospital stemming from the incident, Lehner declined to comment, again citing concerns as a personnel matter.

Bates said he didn't know specifically how much of the drug went missing beyond what was contained in "a little glass vial," but said the misdemeanor theft charge means that by definition, it was worth less than $500. Peppenger is also facing a felony drug charge for possession of the controlled substance.

She was scheduled for an arraignment at the Dimond Court Building on Thursday, though her case's disposition was unavailable at press time.

Hospital officials handled the initial investigation in-house on Wednesday before contacting police, Bates said. The nursing supervisor had assembled all the employees there at the time to interview them about the suspected drug tampering.

Peppenger was being held at Lemon Creek Correctional Center as of press time.

• Contact Jeremy Hsieh at 523-2258 or e-mail jeremy.hsieh@juneauempire.com.



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