A 41-year-old former nurse from Moses Lake will serve 18 months in federal prison for tampering with morphine medications.

Prosecutors say Esther Rae Tuller removed morphine from vials while working as a registered nurse at the Confluence Health Clinic in Moses Lake, and then ingested the drug as part of her own opioid addiction.

They say at least one Confluence Health patient had to be rushed to the emergency room in excruciating pain after receiving only saline from what was supposed to be morphine vials.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Stanley A. Bastian sentenced Tuller Friday to 18 months followed by three years of supervised release after she pleaded guilty to Tampering with Consumer Products.

Prosecutors say Tuller's position as a nurse provided her with access to medications, including opioid narcotics such as morphine, which is commonly prescribed by hospitals and health care facilities to relieve pain.

They say she used syringes to remove morphine from at least 17 vials, and then replaced the morphine with a saline solution, and attempted to glue the caps back onto the vials to make them appear intact.

“While Ms. Tuller’s addiction to opioids is both tragic and far too common, her decision to take advantage of her access to medical-grade morphine was an egregious breach of trust," said Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

"It is deeply troubling that she compounded her misconduct by secretly replacing that morphine with saline in vials that she knew would be distributed to patients, recklessly endangering patients who rely on the integrity of our health care system every day.”

Tuller was sentenced in in federal court in Spokane.

The investigation was conducted by the DEA’s Diversion Group in the Seattle Field Office, and the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Seattle Domicile.

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