Former Amherst County veterinarian stole opioids from his employer, injected himself and put diluted vials back

He worked at VCA Amherst Animal Hospital for more than 25 years

Mugshot of Patrick Gries taken May 24, 2021, at the Amherst County Detention Center. (Blue Ridge Regional Jail)

LYNCHBURG, Va. – A former Amherst County veterinarian pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing opioids from his former employer for personal use.

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.

From 1994 to 2021, Gries worked at VCA Amherst Animal Hospital in Amherst County, which had a supply of Dilaudid, an opioid generically known as hydromorphone, according to court records.

The hospital both sold the drug and maintained a supply of it for 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 the drug.

Starting in July 2020 and without a valid prescription, Gries would withdraw a portion of the drug from a vial and inject it into himself.

Afterward, he would replace what was missing in a vial with another substance, usually either saline or butorphonal, and then return the altered hydromorphone to the supply maintained by the hospital.

“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,” said United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh in a news release on Monday. “When individuals with access to controlled substances break those safety protocols, even for individual use, they must be held accountable.”