Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

April 25, 2013

Pain doctors on board with crackdown

Up to 700 Hoosiers die of overdose each year

— Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is unleashing a major crackdown on the state’s medical community, and a spokesman for Indiana’s pain management doctors says it’s about time.

“It basically just got out of control, to where we’re prescribing six to eight times as much as we were in the early ‘90s,” said Dr. Michael Whitworth, M.D., chairman of the Indiana Pain Society.

Indiana is one of only two states with no regulations, rules or state guidance as to how much pain medication doctors can prescribe.

That could be changing, due to legislation pending in the Indiana General Assembly, but the feeling among doctors is that too many patients have died, Whitworth said.

Absent more regulations, Zoeller has gone after the state medical licenses of 14 doctors in the past two years, including four doctors connected with the Wagoner Medical Centers in Burlington and Kokomo.

All four of those doctors are charged with felonies and it’s doubtful any of the four will ever issue a prescription for narcotics again. But the actions against the doctors come after police linked 27 deaths to the Wagoner clinics.

“[Zoeller] is trying to bring some common sense back into [prescribing]. Unfortunately, he’s done it after a lot of people have died,” Whitworth said.

Whitworth disagrees frequently with the physician who prosecutors will be using against the Wagoner doctors at trial, Dr. Timothy King, M.D., president and chief medical officer of Advanced Pain and Anesthesia Consultants Group.

One point of disagreement is how many patients should be eligible for the long-term, prescribed use of opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, methadone and morphine. In testimony supporting the charges against the doctors, King opined that numerous Wagoner patients should never have received “chronic opioid therapy” due to preexisting medical and mental health issues.

Whitworth called King’s medical opinions “extremist” and said King is an outlier to the general medical consensus, particularly in King’s stance that a prior diagnosis of depression should disqualify a person as a candidate for COT.

At the same time, the fact that anywhere between 560 and 700 Hoosiers a year are dying from overdoses from prescribed narcotics is evidence that overprescribing is a huge problem, he acknowledged.

Whitworth also said using drug screens to weed out COT patients who are abusing or “diverting” medication is critical, and said allegations that the Wagoner doctors ignored drug screen results are serious.

Indiana now ranks 16th per capita in the number of prescription drug overdose deaths, but Whitworth said he thinks Zoeller’s initiative is having a positive effect.

“It’s having a chilling effect on the prescribing of narcotics, and I say that in a good way,” Whitworth said. “We’ve got to do a better job.”

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Kokomo Tribune eEdition, or our print edition

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Art FOr the Sky Wallace School hosts Indiana’s first Art for the Sky project From the ground, the crowd gathered at Wallace School of Integrated Arts on Wednesday seemed like nothing more than people in colorful T-shirts standing in odd groups. But with "sky sight," the formation took on the large-scale image of a paint palet

    April 24, 2014 3 Photos

  • City acquires more right of way for Nickel Plate Trail extension The city of Kokomo acquired another piece of land for the construction of the Nickel Plate Trail in its quest to extend the trail from county line to county line. The city's Board of Public Works and Safety approved a recreational trail easement that

    April 24, 2014

  • County residents speak out against wind energy As debate continues over the construction of wind turbines in Howard County and its neighbors, residents are turning up the heat on officials in an effort to stop development in the southeast corner of the county. Concerned citizens spoke out during

    April 24, 2014

  • Driver in fatal hit and run on Center Road pleads guilty The driver of a truck involved in an August hit-and-run crash that killed a 13-year-old boy could get as much as seven years behind bars if a judge accepts his plea. Randall K. Rector, 58, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a crash resulting in d

    April 24, 2014

  • TUFF CURBS Locals upset over Markland curb plans Plans to eliminate left-hand turns along the city's busiest business corridor caused a major uproar Tuesday. Business owners, city officials and state legislators spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday on the phone protesting to Indiana Department of Tr

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police reports Howard County Arrests Tuesday, 4:34 p.m., police arrested Alisha Whitt, 27, 500 block of South Washington Street, at that residence, on a parole violation. Tuesday, 6:21 p.m., police arrested a 15-year-old male in the 400 block of West Sycamore Stree

    April 24, 2014

  • Eastern to move forward with $2M renovation to jr./sr. high school GREENTOWN -- Renovations at Eastern Sr./Jr. High will continue this summer after the board of education on Tuesday approved spending another $2 million on the final stage of upgrades. There will be no net impact on taxes, which has been a priority fo

    April 24, 2014

  • Volunteers still helping tornado victims Back in March, volunteers set out to inform tornado-ravaged neighborhoods there is still help out there. The small group of volunteers, part of the Long Term Recovery Team, took to the streets of the worst areas hit by the Nov. 17 tornadoes, passing

    April 24, 2014

  • NWS - KT042414 - Coats Coats plans to join GOP senators calling for Russian sanctions INDIANAPOLIS -- U.S. Sen. Dan Coats wants tougher sanctions against Russia for its growing involvement in Ukraine, despite signs of wariness back home. "If there is a bully in the schoolyard, the sooner you realize that and stand up to that bully, th

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gardening-Bee Sanctuaries-3 [Duplicate] Bee sanctuaries Bees are pulling a disappearing act. Honeybees are vanishing from their hives. Bumblebee numbers have crashed so radically that some species are believed extinct. Even native solitary bees are in decline. Food supplies dependent upon pollinators are

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers

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.