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Fort Wayne case cited in Rx drug abuse, pain clinic push

Statement as issued Wednesday by the by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office:

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Attorney General Greg Zoeller called for support today for legislation targeting pain-management clinics and prescription drug abuse.

A new proposal, Senate Bill 246, would allow the Medical Licensing Board to authorize immediate inspections by the Attorney General’s office to investigate likely instances of overprescribing. Also, pain management clinics would be prohibited from being owned by anyone other than a physician or a hospital.

“Pain-management clinics operating outside the law negatively impact their patients’ welfare, fuel addiction and harm local communities,” Zoeller said. “The growing number of patients and families who have experienced the fallout of prescription drug abuse deserve solutions. Our prescription drug task force, made up of 70 individuals with diverse backgrounds and medical experience, has worked hard to provide relevant solutions to the legislature to impact the prescription drug abuse epidemic.”

Zoeller said an ongoing licensing case against a Fort Wayne physician underscores the need for more oversight of practitioners whose patients are prescribed controlled substances to treat pain. Dr. William Hedrick, who owns and operates the Centers for Pain Relief, was recently suspended and faces a licensing complaint by the Attorney General’s office for his prescribing habits.

If enacted, SB 246 would direct the Medical Licensing Board to adopt rules to provide requirements and prohibitions relating to safe and responsible controlled drug and pain medication prescribing practices. The bill is scheduled to be heard on Feb. 13 in the Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services.

The Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force was established by Zoeller last year to find solutions and make legislative recommendations to the Indiana General Assembly. Allen County Health Commissioner Deborah McMahan, MD who is also a member of the task force said the prescription drug problem has negatively impacted Allen County.

“Prescription drug abuse is a significant public health issue and I applaud the Attorney General for taking a strong stand,” McMahan said. “According to the CDC, prescription drugs, including opioids and antidepressants, are responsible for more overdose deaths than ‘street drugs’ such as cocaine and heroin. In Allen County alone, there were 29 deaths caused by drug overdoses in 2011. Of those, 25 involved prescription drugs of some kind. While there is no one intervention that will eliminate abuse or misuse of narcotics, this bill represents an important step in what we hope will be a comprehensive opioid abuse prevention strategy for our state.”

The legislation, authored by Sen. Ron Grooms (R-Jeffersonville) who serves on the task force, stems from a recent case in Southern Indiana where a pain clinic physician prescribed more than 8,000 prescriptions for 3,489 patients in a year’s time – with more than 95 percent receiving Oxycodone. The cash-only clinic was forced to close after the Attorney General’s office successfully petitioned the board to temporarily suspend the doctor’s license.

Hedrick and Marlow are set to go before the Medical Licensing Board on Feb. 28 to face likely disciplinary action.

For more information on Zoeller’s prescription drug abuse awareness campaign visit the Attorney General’s website at http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2975.htm.

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