Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 18, 2013

State seeks to suspend Wagoner doctors

Attorney general says patient deaths linked to clinic

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

— Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed petitions Monday to have four doctors connected with the Wagoner medical clinics in Burlington and Kokomo suspended from medical practice.

Citing an ongoing investigation that “revealed unsafe pharmacological mixes, high prescribing rates for controlled pain medications and numerous patient deaths resulting from multiple drug toxicity,” Zoeller said it was unsafe to allow the doctors to continue practicing.

Named in the petitions are Dr. Don Wagoner, his wife, Dr. Marilyn Wagoner, Dr. Robert Brewer and Dr. William Terpstra.

Each of the doctors are accused of providing “inappropriate and dangerous” medical care to 14 patients by over-prescribing opiate pain medication and other narcotics.

Of the 14 patients identified in the attorney general’s complaint, 12 are deceased. Seven died of drug overdoses, two died of complications arising from heavy use of narcotics, and three others had prescribed drugs in their systems at death, according to the complaint. Each of the patients are identified only by a letter of the alphabet.

All four doctors will have a chance to contest the attorney general’s petition at a March 27 meeting of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana.

Wagoner Medical Center has an office at 821 N. Dixon Road in Kokomo and at 605 E. 7th St. in Burlington.

Calls to the Kokomo clinic were referred to Dr. Don Wagoner in Burlington. Don Wagoner did not return a call Monday.

“Evidence revealed that the practices of these doctors pose a clear danger to their patients and the public,” said Gabrielle Owens, deputy director of the attorney general’s Licensing Enforcement and Homeowner Protection Unit. “These types of aggressive prescribing practices can lead to diversion, abuse and addiction. Our office has worked diligently to bring these actions quickly in order to ensure patients are protected while formal licensing complaints are being completed.”

Petitions for summary suspension of all four doctors, if granted, would bar each of the physicians from practicing medicine for 90 days while the attorney general’s office drafts formal complaints, aimed at permanent suspensions.

According to a press statement released by Zoeller’s office Monday, the licensing board has discretion over medical license suspensions.

Armed with search warrants, officers from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Kokomo Police Department raided the Burlington and Kokomo clinics Feb. 7, carrying off boxes of documents.

Dennis Wichern, special agent at the DEA’s Indianapolis office, declined to discuss reasons for the raid, citing an ongoing investigation. The probable cause affidavits supporting those search warrants remain sealed.

The first details in the investigation were provided Monday by the attorney general’s office.

Both Wagoners, Terpstra and Brewer are accused of prescribing multiple drugs to patients that can be unsafe when combined as prescribed, unusually high pill counts, and a preference for prescribing narcotics that are highly valued for resale by drug dealers.

The complaint also alleges the doctors pre-signed prescription pads “for unrestricted distribution to patients by nurse practitioners and physician assistants employed at Wagoner Medical Center.”

Officers from the DEA and the Kokomo Drug Task Force said Monday the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call the drug task force at 765-456-7204.

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