"Doctor Shopping" & Naive Detectives

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I just finished representing a wonderful woman who was drug through the court system based upon the unethical and illegal conduct of her doctor. In Ohio, it is a felony to engage in "Deception to Obtain Dangerous Drugs" (prescription drugs). Many are guilty. Some are merely victims of aggressive opiate pain management by doctors. This is Barb's true story.

Barb is 56 years old and doesn't even having a parking ticket on her record. Several years ago Barb began experience intractable back pain. She did physical therapy, painful cortisone shots, chiropractic, massage therapy, and even acupuncture. Meaningful relief never came. Surgery was her last option. She was advised against back surgery by some friends. But, the pain was too much. She went under the knife.

After surgery, she was prescribed some heavy duty pain pills--Vicodin. The pain was gone. She did her post-op PT and took the Vicodin. She finished her course of physical therapy and continued to take the Vicodin. Her back pain was basically gone. But, she continued to take the Vicodin. But, by now, she'd gone to a "Pain Management Clinic" near her home in Cincinnati. Every 30 days she went back to get her fill from the doctor. Sometimes he saw her. Sometimes he didn't. But the prescription was always there for her. Like clock work. The doctor collected the "Patient Consultation" fee and dealt the drug to her. And, presumably, hundreds of other addicted patients. Barb had become a junkie.

She eventually moved to Columbus from Cincinnati. She told her Cincinnati doctor she was moving and needed a referral to a pain management specialist in Columbus. He referred her to one. He faxed in the referral to the Columbus doctor. The Columbus doc resumed Barb's prescriptions consistent with what the Cincinnati doctor had been writing. However, a few times Barb returned to Cincinnati to visit friends and family. Her addiction took her back to her original doctor. The Cincinnati doctor agreed to write Barb some scripts for the pain pills even though he knew she was seeing another doctor in Columbus for the same thing.

Barb's multiple prescriptions for Vicodin was flagged in the state's pharmacy database (OARRS). She was visited by a detective. She admitted being an addict but denied "knowingly" deceiving either of her doctors. The detective was unpersuaded. The Cincinnati doctor denied knowing about the Columbus doctor. The Columbus doctor denied knowing that Barb was still seeing the Cincinnati doctor. The detective never requested Barb's medical records from either doctor. Instead he sought an indictment.

Barb was indicted on 25 counts of 2d degree felony Deception to Obtain Dangerous Drugs. If convicted, she was facing 50 years in prison. If convicted on just 1 count she was facing 2-8 years.

I subpoenaed our client's medical records from both doctors. Strangely, in the Cincinnati doctor's records, there is no mention of his referral to the Columbus doctor. But, in the Columbus doctor's file sat the fax referral from the Cincinnati doctor. Clearly, both docs knew of each other. Obviously, our client never knowingly failed to disclose to either doctor that she was seeing the other.

Now, Barb's case is in the process of being dismissed. She had to go through a heck of a ringer. She has now learned an amazing lesson. My advice to anyone receiving pills from more than one doctor -- send a certified letter to each provider as to who your other doctors are. These doctors do not pay enough attention to their files and will prescribe pain pills without warning a patient that receiving pain pills from more than one doctor may be viewed as a felony. Other doctors have a profit motive to write percocet or vicodin prescriptions to the medical and legal detriment of their patients. Those folks are known as "Pill Mills".