Duluth nurse practitioner investigated for numerous narcotic prescriptions
Duluth police are investigating a former Essentia Health nurse practitioner who, according to numerous search warrants filed in the case, allegedly wrote prescriptions for more than 9,000 narcotic pain pills for patients she never treated.
The search warrants claim that nurse practitioner Jill Karkoska, 25, of Duluth, prescribed more than 4,500 pills to just four people in a six-month period, including 2,000 to a man identified in the documents as her boyfriend.
According to the warrants, many of which were executed so Duluth police could examine medical records of patients who were allegedly prescribed medication by Karkoska:
"(Karkoska's supervisors) stated the max Karkoska should be prescribing to a patient is 15-20 pills, enough to only last a couple of days until the patient can see their primary physician," according to one search warrant.
"They advised that Jill Karkoska should have been prescribing less than half of what she actually was," a warrant said.
An Essentia spokeswoman said that Karkoska worked for the health system for about nine months and is no longer employed there. She said the nurse's employment ended on July 5. She said she couldn't elaborate because it was a personnel issue.
Karkoska referred questions to her Twin Cities attorney, Eric Nelson, who said his client "categorically denies" allegations levied against her in the search warrants that she fraudulently prescribed narcotics.
"I do not believe there was any deviation from accepted medical practices for pain management," Nelson said.
Karkoska, a graduate of the College of St. Scholastica, still is a licensed nurse practitioner in Minnesota but is not practicing, Nelson said.
By law, she does not have to be employed by a health-care provider to prescribe medications, but she does need to have a written prescribing agreement with a physician.
Nelson said his client has not been barred from prescribing medications.
"If she were to go back to work, there are no restrictions on her," Nelson said. "If she had a supervising physician, she would be able to (prescribe narcotics)."
Karkoska has not been charged with a crime. Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Gary Bjorklund, supervisor of his office's criminal division, said Tuesday that no investigative reports on the case have been forwarded to his office for review.
Duluth police Lt. Steve Stracek, commander of the Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force, said Karkoska's case is an ongoing investigation and he couldn't publicly comment on it.
He said in general, law enforcement personnel are spending more time investigating prescription drug abuse.
"I can tell you, obviously, from that round of (27 federal) indictments about a month ago (for trafficking prescription painkillers and other drugs), our prescription drug issue has gone off the charts," Stracek said.
"It's something that we're starting to look at a lot more. We're seeing a major increase on prescription drug abuse from the street level. We're also seeing it spreading into a bigger user pool," Stracek said. "A lot of younger kids are using pills that traditionally wouldn't be involved in street drug use. They are using pills maybe because they think it isn't as much of a stigma. It's kind of an emerging trend."
Also according to the warrants in the Karkoska case:
News Tribune Investigations Editor Brandon Stahl contributed to this report.