Virginia veterinarian pleads guilty to illegal dealing dog opioids

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Close up of white Labrador dog at vet clinic with male veterinarian stroking his head, copy space

LYNCHBURG, Va. – A MadisonHeights, Virginia man and former veterinarian pleaded guilty to a pair of misdemeanor drug charges related to his diversion of hydromorphone, an opioid drug also known under the trade name of “Dilaudid.”

Patrick Gries, 54, pleaded guilty last week to one count of adulteration of a drug held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce and one count of distribution of a controlled substance without a written prescription.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to working with our partners at the FDA, and elsewhere, to ensure consumer products are stored and prescribed using the most safe and secure protocols possible,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “When individuals with access to controlled substances break those safety protocols, even for individual use, they must be held accountable.”

“The FDA oversees the U.S. drug supply to ensure that it is safe and effective, and those who knowingly tamper with medicines put the health of patients (whether they are human or animal) at risk,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark S. McCormack, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Metro Washington Field Office. “We will continue to protect the public health and bring to justice health care professionals who take advantage of their unique position and compromise their patients’ health and comfort by tampering with needed drugs.”

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According to court documents, from 1994 through 2021, Gries practiced as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at a veterinary hospital in Amherst County, Virginia. The veterinary hospital held hydromorphone for sale and maintained supplies of hydromorphone for use in treating pain in the hospital’s animal patients following surgeries.

As the hospital’s primary surgeon, Gries had full access to the hospital’s supply of hydromorphone. Beginning in July 2020 and without a valid prescription, Gries diverted hydromorphone for personal use by withdrawing a portion of the hydromorphone from the vial and injecting it into himself. He would then replace the diverted portion of the hydromorphone with another substance, usually either saline or butorphonal, and then return the altered hydromorphone to the supply maintained by the hospital.

The Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration – Diversion Control Division, and the Virginia State Police investigated the case.