Weather Forecast


Duluth nurse practitioner investigated for numerous narcotic prescriptions

Lortab is a prescription painkiller that often is abused. (2008 file / News Tribune)

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:

  • On June 30, a Duluth police investigator met with Karkoska's supervisors and told them 4,530 pills had been prescribed to four people in the past six months. The supervisors said there was no explanation for the excessive amount of narcotics prescribed and it did not conform to Karkoska's job duties.

    "(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.

  • On July 1, Karkoska allegedly admitted to writing out all the prescriptions listed in the search warrants. She said she would fill out the prescriptions at work, then bring the prescription home and the person she wrote it for would come to her house and retrieve the prescription. Karkoska reportedly admitted that she never saw any of the people as patients.
  • An investigator received a report of Karkoska's prescribing history from the Minnesota Prescription Monitoring Program, which indicated that Karkoska had prescribed more than 2,800 Percocet and Lortab pills for a 26-year-old woman; more than 2,500 Percocet and Lortab pills for a 28-year-old man, and more than 2,000 Percocet and Lortab pills for a 27-year-old man.
  • An investigator reviewed Karkoska's prescription monitoring program and found that she had prescribed medications for 11 people between the ages of 20 and 29 who were not her patients, and also for a 55-year-old co-worker.
  • Karkoska's supervisors told the investigator that Karkoska was employed as a hospitalist and that she treated people admitted to the hospital; they said it would be unlikely she would see the same patient more than once. They said she would see patients who were mostly older than 40.

    "They advised that Jill Karkoska should have been prescribing less than half of what she actually was," a warrant said.

  • On June 27, Karkoska asked her supervisor for information on urine cleaners and how to obtain one for a friend to pass a drug test.

    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:

  • In June, a police investigator received a call from Target pharmacy in Duluth about possible prescription fraud. The pharmacy said that a 22-year-old man had tried to fill a prescription reportedly written by Karkoska for Percocet on June 2 before he was due for a refill. The man had filled numerous prescriptions allegedly written by Karkoska at other area pharmacies in the area for the same type of prescriptions and some were filled within days of each other. Investigators reviewed the man's medical records and learned he was never a patient of Jill Karkoska.
  • The man told investigators that he was never treated by Karkoska. He said that Karkoska's boyfriend told him that she could write him a prescription if he needed anything. He said that he would go to Karkoska's Duluth residence to receive the prescription but never to Essentia Health.
  • Between January and June the 22-year-old man received prescriptions for more than 1,000 Percocet and Oxycodone pills. All of the prescriptions were allegedly written by Karkoska.

    News Tribune Investigations Editor Brandon Stahl contributed to this report.

  • Advertisement