New pharmacy owner Sheila Walker has an approach to treating pain not imagined at the same location six months ago.
A doctor and two pharmacists who used to run the small North Anthony Boulevard pharmacy were indicted on drug conspiracy charges in July as part of a national battle against opioid abuse.
Under Walker's ownership, narcotics will not be issued for pain relief. Rather, with the help of local neurosurgeon Dr. Rudy Kachmann, 3 Rivers Pharmacy will take a holistic approach to treating customers, Walker said.
For some, that might mean physical therapy or yoga. For others, acupuncture or chiropractic might be the answer. There's also massage therapy, meditation and sports, among other approaches. Walker has a nonnarcotic cream doctors can prescribe for pain that has received positive feedback, she said.
“We're not into narcotics,” she said. “We're into alternative therapy for pain, focusing on the pain cream but other options as well.”
Kachmann has been promoting holistic methods to treat pain for years and has written books about it. He's against using addictive drugs such as Suboxone to wean people off more powerful narcotics. He believes 80 percent of pain sufferers can be treated without narcotics.
The U.S. is creating an “addict nation,” he said.
“I decided that the way we are treating pain is too complex, that the definition of pain is wrong,” Kachmann said.
Walker, who was working at a health clinic in Indianapolis, bought the pharmacy late last year. Walker's dad was a pharmacist and her brother owns a pharmacy in Sullivan, south of Terre Haute.
Walker said she was looking to do something patient-focused when she found the pharmacy at 3537 N. Anthony Blvd., which was once a music store.
The building, on the corner of North Anthony and St. Joe River Drive, was last known as the North Anthony Pharmacy and Wellness Center.
Dr. James E. Ranochak and pharmacists Brent A. Losier and Charles H. Ringger, who operated that business, were named in a federal indictment unsealed in July.
As part of a conspiracy, Losier and Ringger would screen potential patients for Ranochak, according to the indictment. Ranochak would prescribe methadone, hydrocodone and testosterone to patients without performing medical examinations or tests. And the indictment said he would write prescriptions outside the scope of his professional practice and not for legitimate medical purposes.
The three face a 10-count indictment on charges of conspiracy to illegally dispense and distribute controlled substances, distributing a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit health care fraud. They are set for trial June 4.
As Walker was preparing her new shop late last year Kachmann came in one day. The two hit it off.
“I didn't know Dr. Kachmann at all, and it just seemed like a really good fit because he's into patient education, really lifestyle changes, helping people get to the root of the problem,” she said.
Kachmann said 75 percent to 80 percent of people getting pain drugs don't need them. “I think this is the way to go,” he said of Walker's pharmacy.
The pharmacy officially opened Jan. 2. Walker said it differs from others because it primarily focuses on treating pain. She talks to patients and usually knows the reasons they're experiencing pain, she said.
Videos of Kachmann's sessions on diabetes, pain relief and other topics will be shown at the pharmacy. Kachmann has offered to give courses free for customers.
A marketing employee has been taking materials to doctors to spread the word about the pharmacy.
“Just trying to give the doctors another tool, a tool that's no longer going to be destructive to the patients' lives,” said Brent Losier, a Walker consultant.
Using treatment drugs like Suboxone, a narcotic, is trading one addiction for another, Walker said.
“It's not the best solution for the majority of people,” she said. “We just feel there are other options that are better.”
That follows Kachmann's philosophy. He recalls giving a patient lower and lower doses of Suboxone.
“Ten years I followed that lady. I never got her off the Suboxone,” he said. “I was learning, too.”
Kachmann said he opposes Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan's emphasis on having doctors trained to give Suboxone and other addictive drugs to treat substance abuse.
McMahan said she appreciates what Kachmann has done for pain patients and his efforts to provide holistic treatments. The initial goal, she said in an email, “is always to try non-pharmacologic methods to treat health issues.”
“However for addiction I do believe the science behind Suboxone and other medications for the treatment of substance use disorder,” McMahan said. “It's wonderful if people are able to treat their addiction with abstinence only, but the science would say that this only works for about 10% of the people struggling with SUD. I think we need to appreciate that we need to have a variety of options for treatment for people with this complex chronic health issue.”