Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 27, 2013

Doctors agree to stop prescribing narcotics

State will no longer seek emergency license suspension.

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

— INDIANAPOLIS — Two Kokomo doctors have agreed to quit prescribing narcotics to their patients in advance of a state medical disciplinary hearing.

The Medical Licensing Board of Indiana approved an agreement Wednesday between the Indiana Attorney General’s office and doctors Don and Marilyn Wagoner, who have both agreed to stop prescribing controlled substances related to pain management.

The married doctors, who founded the Wagoner Medical Center clinics in Kokomo and Burlington, are fighting allegations that they over-prescribed painkillers and sedatives to numerous patients, including several who died of drug overdoses.

The attorney general’s office filed a petition earlier this month to suspend the medical licenses of the Wagoners and two other doctors who practice out of the Wagoner clinics, Robert Brewer and William Terpstra.

In light of the agreement, the medical licensing board agreed Wednesday to allow the state to withdraw its emergency suspension petitions against the Wagoners, “We think the agreement provides the public with adequate protection against the prescribing practices of doctors Wagoner and Wagoner,” Deputy Attorney General Gabrielle Owens said after Wednesday’s medical board hearing. “It addresses the issues the state had the most concerns about — the prescribing of controlled substances to treat pain.”

Owen said the state is seeking similar agreements with Terpstra and Brewer.

The medical licensing board will proceed with disciplinary hearings against all four doctors next month at the board’s April 25 meeting in Indianapolis.

Owens said the attorney general’s office is not issuing a recommendation as to what kind of sanction the doctors should face if the medical board upholds the state’s complaints.

Both Wagoners declined comment after Wednesday’s hearing.

According to the agreement with the state, the couple cannot continue their pain management practices, and must refer current patients being treated for chronic pain to another licensed pain management specialist.

They can no longer write any prescriptions for the most commonly abused narcotics, opiates and benzodiazepines. The anti-anxiety drugs Xanax, Valium and Klonopin are all benzodiazepines.

Neither doctor will give up their U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency registration, which entitles them to legally prescribe controlled substances. Any violation of the agreement, however, would result in the doctor giving up DEA registration, and the state moving for a summary license suspension.

The doctors cannot employ another prescriber at the Wagoner clinics to provide narcotics to their patients, and must provide the attorney general’s office with a monthly log of all the prescriptions they write.

Both doctors will continue to be able to write prescriptions for the synthetic opiate buprenorphine, brand name Suboxone, provided the drug is used to treat opiate addiction, and is not prescribed for pain management.

Suboxone is one of the substances allegedly prescribed to at least one of the patients mentioned in the attorney general’s original complaints against the four doctors.

Attorneys for the state also filed new complaints Wednesday against both Wagoners, repeating earlier allegations that both doctors engaged in “inappropriate and dangerous prescribing habits,” thereby creating health risks for their patients.

The complaint alleges the Wagoners prescribed opiates to patients, despite evidence the patients were addicted to the painkillers, were abusing them, and/or were illegally distributing them.

The state’s complaint alleges that there was not a sufficient medical basis for prescribing narcotics to some of the patients, and that physician’s assistants were allowed to use pre-signed, blank prescription forms to issue narcotics to patients despite lacking any legal authority to write those prescriptions.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.