Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Breaking News

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
  • Mac talent show 01 lf Maconaquah students, alumni take the stage for 50th annual variety show BUNKER HILL - When students from Bunker Hill and Clay Township schools suddenly found themselves walking the same halls in the new Maconaquah High School, they needed something to rally around as they formed their new school identity. That's when Pow

    April 17, 2014 3 Photos

  • NWS - KT041714 - Bunker Hill child neglect arrests - CLG - pic1 Miami Co. couple face charges of neglect after children found malnourished BUNKER HILL - Two Bunker Hill children have been placed in foster care after officials discovered they were living in a dilapidated house with no heat or running water and were exposed to dangerous amounts of lead. In relation to the case, police Mon

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Maconaquah School Corp. to add new preschool program PERU -- In an effort to meet the needs of Miami County's young children, Maconaquah School Corp. is set to expand its preschool programs next school year. The school district is starting a "Little Braves Academy" preschool program, in addition to its

    April 17, 2014

  • $3.27M grant will boost technical training at Ivy Tech Kokomo Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region just received a $3.27 million boost from the federal government to expand programs dedicated to preparing high school students for careers in industrial technology. Ivy Tech's Integrated Technology Education P

    April 17, 2014

  • NWS KT 041714 pic traveling diplomat Kokomo senior Craig Simon to be traveling diplomat The chance to travel the globe, earn college credits and get paid sounds too good to be true, but it's about to be reality for Kokomo High School senior Craig Simon. The Kokomo School Corp. board of education approved a recommendation Monday to make

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Plea deal filed in Kokomo murder-for-hire plot A Kokomo woman accused of plotting to kill her daughter's boyfriend pleaded guilty to a lesser charge Tuesday as part of a proposed plea deal. Police arrested Christy Shaffer, 41, in September on a conspiracy to commit murder charge after she alleged

    April 17, 2014

  • Tabitha Mitkus Heroin found in hotel room bust Kokomo police seized heroin, pills, cocaine and stolen property in an early morning, motel room bust. Tabitha B. Mitkus, 24, 2000 block of Pontiac Court, was arrested at Garden Inn, 4021 S. Lafountain St., after hotel staff reported suspicious activi

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • North split restrictions on Monday The Indiana Department of Transportation will restrict traffic at the single-lane ramp that connects U.S. 31 to southbound Ind. 931 on the north side of Kokomo — weather permitting — on Monday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Remedial repairs along the 200-

    April 16, 2014

  • BK rebuild 04 Peru restaurant B-K West rebuilding after tornado

    PERU -- B-K West is more than just a drive-in restaurant to its owner, J.D. Hann. It's a piece of his childhood, a historic Peru landmark, and it's his baby. "I grew up with this place," the 57-year-old Peru native said. "We used to walk the tracks o

    April 16, 2014 7 Photos

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks backs manufacturing training efforts Congresswoman Susan Brooks' own personal manufacturing experience may have been limited to three months in a Kendallville caramel factory as a college student, but in her congressional roles, she's having an impact on the skills debate. In Kokomo Tue

    April 16, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
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