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Medication Tampering

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Killing someone by tampering with their medication. At its simplest, this can involve just substituting their medication for something fatal. However, the more subtle version involves swapping the medication for something that has no medicinal value. Even it if it’s not actively harmful, the victim will not be getting the benefit of their medication, and when they die, it will look like natural causes.

See also Tampering with Food and Drink.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, Dio Brando elects to take his adoptive father's medicine up to him since the servant is old and prefers not to use the stairs. Dio uses this opportunity to switch out George Joestar's medicine for a similar-looking and hard-to-detect poison he purchased from a Chinese merchant. It fails when Jonathan Joestar realizes that Dio's father died with the same symptoms, implying Dio had used the same trick on his own father, although he ends up killing him in another fashion anyway.

    Comic Books 
  • Blacksad: In "Silent Hell" Sebastian's heroin dealer is being paid by a man dressed as this world's version of the Grim Reaper to give Sebastian his own heroin. The dealer confesses to Blacksad that Sebastian is likely not gonna survive, likening the dope to rat poison. Weekly finds Sebastian's trail but Blacksad arrives too late to stop him from injecting himself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Nightbreed: Dr. Decker replaces Aaron Boone's medication with hallucinogenic drugs to make him think that he was responsible for several murders that Decker himself committed.
  • The Net: Dr. Alan (Dennis Miller) is killed by the movie villains via hacking and changing both his pharmacy and medical computer records giving him lethal doses of medications.
  • Played for Drama and Inverted in Repo! The Genetic Opera. Ill child Shilo is kept homebound due to a rare blood condition, which she takes daily medication for. In the finale, it is revealed that Shilo's father has been poisoning her with the "medicine," which causes her to exhibit the symptoms of her vague illness; she is completely healthy when not taking it.
  • One of the Devil's random acts of petty evil on Bedazzled (2000) is to exchange all of the medicines that are being readied to hand out to patients in a hospital with candies. One of the changes that are explicitly mentioned is that of someone's anti-psychotics being replaced with Tic-Tacs.
  • Downplayed in Police Academy 4. While Lt. Harris is taking a shower, someone (later implied to be Zed) replaces his underarm deodorant with mace. He doesn't die, but he does irritate his armpits.
  • Dumb and Dumber does this accidentally. Joe joins up with Harry and Lloyd with the intention of killing them with poison pills. After they stop at a diner, they trick him into eating spicy food and irritate his ulcer. He asks them to give him the stomach medication he's carrying to fix the problem. After they give him the pills, he sees they gave him the poison by mistake and dies.
  • In Crooked House, Aristide Leonides is murdered when the killer switches his insulin for toxic eye drops.
  • In Deadly Advice, Jodie empties out her sister's heart medication capsules and refills them with flour.
  • In Trash Fire, Violet sabotages Owen's epilepsy medication, eventually causing him to collapse.
  • In Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, Harry tries to kill Nancy with a morphine overdose. He's stopped when the nurse turns on the light, which also reveals Nancy's growth.
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    Literature 
  • In Shadow of Doubt someone spikes Alinadar's medication with cleaning solvent. It causes massive damage to her vein and starts to reach her heart before the paramedics manage to stop it. Even then she needs cellular rejuvenation therapy to survive.
  • The Footprints on the Ceiling: Madame Rappourt routinely took "trance capsules" containing morphine and scopolamine before conducting a seance. When another character in the novel thinks she's developing mediumistic abilities and begs Rappourt to let her try the capsules, Rappourt empties out a couple and fills them with sugar instead. Then before she can hand over the altered capsules, the murderer spikes them with cyanide.
  • Used multiple times in the works of Agatha Christie:
    • In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The victim's medication, which contained strychnine, is tampered with using a chemical that precipitates the strychnine to the bottom, ensuring the ingests all the strychnine from the bottle in one go when she takes the last dose.
    • In Dumb Witness, the victim’s liver pills are doctored with phosphorus. The hint is given by the ‘aura’ seen around the woman: the phosphoresence of her breath.
    • In Miss Marple novel The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side, someone who uses some medication in an inhaler makes the mistake of trying to blackmail the murderer. The next time she uses her inhaler, she gets a lungful of Bitter Almonds.
    • In Crooked House, the eye drop solution the victim used for his glaucoma is put in a bottle labeled as insulin for treating his diabetes. The eye medicine proves to be quite deadly when taken intravenously.
  • Played straight in Edenborn when Penny swaps one of Hessa's medications as a prank, resulting in Hessa's death from Black Ep.
  • The Narrows: The solution for the death of Posthumous Character Terry McCaleb. It turns out that McCaleb, a heart transplant recipient, found out that his body was rejecting the donor heart. A second heart transplant would bankrupt his family. So Terry tampered with his own medication so that he would die and his death would look like natural causes.
  • In The Queen's Thief book King of Attolia, Eugenides' medicine is spiked with a dangerous hallucinogen that is used to induced oracular visions and can lead to death if misused—as well as screaming nightmares. He put it there himself and didn't take it because he gets screaming nightmares anyway, and he needed to "expose" his chief attendant as a traitor without compromising his ability to secretly gather evidence for the way the attendant actually tried to murder him.
  • In the Quiller novel The Striker Portfolio, West German fighter planes are crashing at a suspicious rate. When Quiller finds the saboteur, he turns out to be the psychiatrist who's been giving the pilots sedatives to cope with stress. One of the pills in each tube is an increased dosage that knocks out the pilot so they crash. Quiller is incredulous that it's something so simple.
  • In Murder, My Dear, a young woman who is taking care of a wealthy old woman who was bedridden finds out that somebody has been tampering with the woman's medication in the hopes that she would die. Originally it was thought to be one of her relatives, hoping to get at her inheritance, but as it turns out, it was her old friend, an author of murder books, who sought revenge against her for taking the only man she loved out of her life and caused him to die of leukemia.
  • Murder Without Icing: The second murder of the novel is performed by substituting cyanide tablets for the victim's cold medicine.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "King of the Lake", the murderer substitutes the Victim of the Week's heart medication for similar looking slimming pills; knowing that when he is thrown into the lake as happens at the end of every rowing race, the sudden immersion in cold water will trigger a fatal heart attack.
  • In Better Call Saul we find out how Tio Salamanca wound up in that wheelchair; his abused henchman Ignacio switched out his heart medication with regular, unhelpful ibuprofen.
  • CSI: NY:
    • In "Blood Actually", the killer swaps a diabetic victim's insulin for sugar syrup, so that when he goes to inject himself with insulin, he is in fact shooting up more sugar.
    • In "Time's Up", a college student has her asthma inhaler switched for a drug that enhances sexual arousal, causing her to suffer a fatal asthma attack while orgasming.
  • In Desperate Housewives, George Williams replaces Rex van de Kamp's medications with potassium pills, and Rex suffers a fatal heart attack.
  • Midsomer Murders: The second Victim of the Week in "Death in Disguise" is killed when the murderer deliberately withholds their heart medication as they suffering a heart attack.
  • Gotham: The father of Oswald Cobblepot explains to him that he has a heart condition, a hole in his heart that does not seems to resolve itself despite the medication he takes. His wife brings him the medication as he is explaining that, and after leaving the room takes the exact same white "pill" from a mints box and eats it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A variant: a de-powered Buffy manages to kill a powerful but ill vampire by replacing the water that he uses to wash down his medication with holy water.
  • The Coroner: In "That's the Way to Do It", the unpopular mayor of Lighthaven has her scone spiked with shellfish (to which she is allergic) and her epi-pen and inhaler removed from her handbag. The would-be murderer knows that the allergy won't actually kick in until the mayor engages in vigorous exercise and knows that she will be meeting up with her lover for an illicit sex session. The killer hopes the murder will be written off as exercise-induced anaphylaxis.
  • Leverage:
    • In "The Miracle Job", the crew induces a panic attack in the mark by replacing his anti-anxiety medication with pills that are a mix of caffeine and dexamphetamine.
    • In "The Second David Job", the crew cause a museum directior to think he has contracted an infection from a mummy by swapping his allergy medication for a mixture of ragweed pollen and dexamphetamine.
  • CSI: Cyber: In "Click Your Poison", the team goes after a fake pharmacy website that sells fake prescription medication for heart disease, at a low price, to those who can’t get it from either their doctors, or whose insurance doesn’t cover that type of medication. The downside to these cheap pills is that they don’t do what they’re supposed to do: make the patient better.
  • CSI: In "Primum Non Nocere", the team doctor for an ice hockey team murders the Victim of the Week by swapping his painkiller tablet for a quinine tablet that he knows will interact fatally with player's heart condition.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Angel of Death", a playwright has his sedatives swapped for powerful anti-depressives as part of a Gaslighting scheme.
  • Death in Paradise:
    • In "Death in the Clinic", the killer swaps the Victim of the Week's pain medication with a dose of botox strong enough to paralyze her lungs and cause her to suffocate.
    • In "Hidden Secrets", a doctor diagnoses his friend as suffering an incurable degenerative nerve disease, as part of a plot to drive him to suicide. The drugs his supplies him to 'treat' the condition are actually antipsychotics that will simulate the symptoms of degenerative nerve damage.
  • In a variation, one episode of Law & Order was centered around a man who was selling a fake flu vaccine that was actually just a placebo. In this case it wasn't specifically to harm anyone, but rather an attempt to take advantage of the shortage for financial gain. He still ends up being convicted of 16 counts of manslaughter for patients who died because they weren't immunized (and, contributing to the Moment of Awesome, McCoy convinces the judge to give him consecutive sentences for each count).
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: In "In Treatment", a psychiatrist gives one of his patients an antidepressant that he knows is contraindicated with the antidepressant he is currently taking. The combination causes a variety of side-effects, including delirium, which causes the patient to commit suicide.
    • A similar incident occurs in an episode of Law & Order: SVU. The team discovers that a doctor intentionally faked a teenager's schizophrenia diagnosis, including using medication to induce symptoms, because she was having an illicit sexual relationship with him.
  • An episode of Homicide Hunter found that a man had injected insecticide into his hospitalized wife's IV (she was being treated for blood clots in her leg). However, he was thwarted when the IV system's alarm went off and shut down the pump upon detecting that a foreign substance had been introduced into the solution. Particularly stupid, given the man was a doctor himself and should have known that that would happen.
  • Columbo, episode "The Most Dangerous Match": Dudek having survived his fall from the stairs, Clayton finishes him off by tampering with the medications Dudek needs for his diabetes and heart disease.
  • Perception: The Villain of the Week in the first season finale kills her husband by replacing his blood thinner medication with sugar pills, which caused him to suffer a fatal stroke.
  • A victim-of-the-week on NCIS runs afoul of this. His wife replaces his contact lens solution with a drug that reacts with his anti-depression meds, making him suicidal. But when that isn't quite enough (because Gibbs shows up to talk him down and nearly succeeds), she simply shoots him.
  • Agatha Raisin: The Victim of the Week in "Agatha and the Wizard of Evesham" is murdered by the killer injecting ricin into his vitamin tablets.
  • One Life to Live. Determined to keep her mentally ill sister from revealing family secrets, Dorian Lord replaces her antipsychotics with sugar pills, prompting the woman to go off the deep end after years of stability.

    Theater 
  • In keeping with the source material, Hook poisons Pan's medicine in the Play Within a Play in Peter Pan Goes Wrong. However, unlike the original, this goes on to have near fatal effects on the actress playing Tink.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • In King of the Hill, Bobby tries to get even with Luanne when her then boyfriend throws a party at Boomhauer's house which he was house-sitting. He set up pranks against Luanne and she retaliates back. Finally, he goes far enough to change Luanne's birth control pills with candy. Hank and Peggy decide to make Bobby "marry" Luanne to teach him a lesson.

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