Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

May 14, 2013

Zoeller credits Legislature for action

Pill mill bill aids prescription drug fight.

— Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s crackdown on the state’s prescription drug epidemic got a boost last month when the Indiana General Assembly passed a “pill mill” bill with little opposition.

Now it’s up to Zoeller, who has called prescription drug abuse the state’s biggest drug problem, to follow through.

“I’m always sensitive to not get more authority than I can actually use,” Zoeller said during an interview Monday. “People complain about Internet spam. [The Legislature] has tried to put that on me a couple of times. ... Of course there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Zoeller does, however, think the new law can make an impact on the growing pill problem, which has seen the number of annual overdose victims quadruple since the early 1990s.

Thanks to the legislation, Zoeller hopes he’ll be able to start reviewing medical records of patients whose doctors are suspected of overprescribing narcotics.

Under the new law, the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana can now grant the attorney general’s office permission to conduct “administrative reviews” of medical records.

That’s a big change, considering that until now, the AG’s office has had to seek criminal search warrants against doctors.

Zoeller said the Indiana Medical Association was initially against administrative reviews, but relented after he brought licensing actions against more than a dozen doctors in the past two years.

Zoeller will still have to get permission to conduct any reviews, and the fact he’s seeking to review records will remain confidential unless and until he files a licensing action against a doctor.

The other piece of the legislation seeks to address the fact Indiana is one of a handful of states without a clear definition of “overprescribing.”

Both the medical licensing board and the Indiana Pharmacy Board have been asked to arrive at standards of care, which doctors and pharmacists will be able to refer to when prescribing or filling prescriptions.

In some cases, Zoeller said, doctors could have used care standards to provide guidance.

At the same time, “If you can’t say ‘no’ to a drug addict, you shouldn’t be prescribing,” he said. “And that’s giving some [doctors] the benefit of the doubt.”

The true pill mills, the cash-and-carry, cash-for-meds businesses, need to be shut down immediately, he added.

“Those places are basically legalized drug dealers. These have to go away right now.”

To aid that effort, the law requires pain clinic owners to hold an Indiana Controlled Substance Registration for each facility they own in Indiana. The medical licensing board has authority to approve or reject any new applications.

That ends the ability of unscrupulous individuals to simply rent office space, hang up a sign, and hire a doctor to write prescriptions.

Zoeller said he’s still unhappy the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency isn’t doing more to revoke the DEA registration numbers of overprescribing doctors.

Of the 14 doctors Zoeller has filed state licensing actions against, only two have had their DEA registrations revoked. He’s careful not to say too much on the subject, other than to say he’s seeking to meet with DEA officials in Washington, D.C., about the issue.

Zoeller’s office and local law enforcement have worked closely with the DEA to build the cases against four doctors associated with the Wagoner Medical Center clinics in Burlington and Kokomo.

All four of the Wagoner doctors — who are each facing felony drug dealing charges — are now barred from prescribing narcotics and state officials are proceeding with formal complaints which could result in all four doctors’ state licenses being revoked. The medical licensing board is scheduled to have a formal hearing for doctors Don and Marilyn Wagoner on June 27, Dr. William Terpstra will appear July 25 and Dr. Robert Brewer’s case will be heard Oct. 25.

Zoeller declined to discuss the cases while they’re pending, but did say he wasn’t surprised at the criminal charges being filed against the doctors.

In the wake of the Wagoner clinics being shut down, Zoeller said he expects to see a local increase in the number of people being arrested with controlled substances in their possession, as drug dealers seek to supply addicts.

He said pharmacy robberies are always a concern in Indiana, adding the state has one of the highest rate of pharmacy robberies in the country.

Those concerns point to the next step Zoeller said the state needs to take against the prescription drug epidemic.

“The next big problem we’re going to have to address is the lack of addiction services,” he said.

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

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • tornadodamage34-20-04.jpg Kokomo Skating Arena: 10 years gone

    If you drive past the intersection of East Morgan and North Ohio streets these days you’ll see some trees, a parking lot and a Dollar General store. What you won’t see is the Kokomo Skating Arena, a landmark which stood on this corner for decades until a tornado caved the roof in April 20, 2004. Those who knew it well said they won’t soon forget it.

    April 20, 2014 6 Photos

  • Question Time: Name a baby (or babies) today

    “Imagine you’re having a baby (or babies) today. What would you name it (or them) and why? (You can give answers for a girl, a boy or both; and any combination for twins, triplets, etc.)”

    April 20, 2014

  • 400SUnion.jpg Counties move forward with flood mitigation one year later

    One by one, properties were bulldozed from the neighborhood between Carter and Murden streets in downtown Kokomo, physically erasing evidence of residential flooding in an area long prone to it.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Flooded area - E Murden 01 Jaimz family seeks closure after losing everything Ashley Jaimz and her sister, Amanda Urbina, took a drive through the Cedar Crest neighborhood the other day to view how residents were faring in the wake of a Nov. 17 tornado. The drive was intended to provide some closure to Jaimz, who is still stru

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS - FEMA 03 Kokomo resident whose basement collapsed during flood repairs own home

    Walter Raderstorf can still remember sitting in his living room inside his home on West Park Avenue, realizing he had escaped a brush with death. “I was in the basement carrying stuff up and I came in here and sat down,” he said. “It wasn’t 30 second

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Late Kokomo teacher dedicates estate to foundation Longtime Kokomo School Corp. teacher Holly Kirkpatrick will continue to have a positive impact on students thanks to a $38,000 donation from her estate to the Kokomo Public Schools Education Foundation. Kirkpatrick died in November 2012 after teachin

    April 20, 2014

  • flood anniversary Thomas family ready to move on after flood In the Thomas household, few things take precedent over baseball. You’d be hard-pressed to find a couple more dedicated to youth baseball in Kokomo — or anywhere else for that matter — than Michael and Lashanda Thomas, who have passed that love of th

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • EasterEgg hunt 10 'Controlled chaos' at city's Easter egg hunt With buckets and Easter baskets in hand, hundreds of kids 10 years old and younger packed Kokomo's Northwest Park Saturday to see who could grab up the most Easter eggs. Organizers split the kids up in three age groups, 0 to 3, 4 to 6 and 7 to 10, wi

    April 20, 2014 4 Photos

  • NWS-FloodFollowDay2-15.jpg April flood brought people together to bail out community

    [Editor’s note: On April 19, 2013, a record flood hit Howard and Tipton counties. Today, we look at some of the financial aspects of the flood. In Sunday’s edition, look for stories about people who were affected, what has changed in the floodplains and how the communities are moving forward.]

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS-KT041914-TwoinjuredinMiamiCocrash-CLG-pic.jpeg Two injured in Miami County crash

    PERU — Two people were injured Thursday afternoon in a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of U.S. 24 and Ind. 19.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries