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General assembly

Senate bill taking aim at pill mills

Pain-med abuses targeted

– Some startling statistics punctuated a legislative hearing Wednesday regarding proposed regulations on prescribing controlled substances for pain management.

More people die in America from prescription drug overdoses than all illegal drug overdoses combined. Similarly, car accident deaths now take fewer lives than the epidemic of prescription drug deaths.

“A legitimate pain management specialist should embrace these regulations because there are rogue doctors out there tainting the whole profession,” said Derek Spence of Jeffersonville.

His neighborhood fought a “pill mill” that the state attorney general recently shut down in which people drove from other states to pay cash for controlled substances such as oxycodone, Vicodin and others.

In December, the Attorney General’s Office filed a complaint against Dr. William Hedrick of Fort Wayne for alleged reckless prescribing practices for controlled substances. Seven patient deaths are possibly involved.

He is the founder and president of Centers for Pain Relief in northeast Indiana, and his license is suspended pending a formal disciplinary hearing before the Indiana Medical Licensing Board. No criminal charges have been filed, but several of his offices have been raided by state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The two cases are just one reason why legislators are now taking aim at problematic pain management specialists.

Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, has offered Senate Bill 246, which contains multiple provisions.

First, it would require a physician, hospital or licensed health facility to own any clinic or entity offering the drugs. It also gives the attorney general more powers of inspection and emergency intervention, and it requires the state medical licensing board to draft rules and standards of care for such clinics or doctors focusing on controlled substances.

The bill targets the doctor prescribing the medicines rather than the facility where patients are seen, Grooms said.

“The only time a physician would ever have an issue with this bill is if they get outside standards of practice the board sets for them,” Grooms said.

The attorney general’s office and several pain doctors supported the bill, which passed unanimously and now heads to the full Senate.

One Fort Wayne physician, Dr. Rudy Kachmann, testified during Wednesday’s hearing and said what he is witnessing in northeast Indiana “is a living hell.”

He said the bill doesn’t go far enough, adding that he supports the original format of the bill to require licensing of each facility.

nkelly@jg.net

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