Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Editorials

June 21, 2013

Disturbing trend

Another physician admits to operating sham pain clnic

ASHLAND — One of the more surprising and disturbing aspects of the prescription drug epidemic that has plagued this region for the last 15 years is the number of trained physicians who have been convicted of surrendering their professional ethics and admitting to being no more than pushers who feed the habits of “patients” who are addicted to prescription pain pills.

The interests of these so-called physicians is not in the health and well-being of the patients they see but in making as much money as possible off the weaknesses of others. If some of those for whom they wrote  prescriptions for pain pill died from overdoses, they no concern of these physicians. Most of them do not even see their patients long enough to even remember what they look like.

In short, these physicians are motivated by greed, pure and simple. And sadly, no matter how many doctors are now behind bars, there always seems to be more “quacks” willing to take their place.

Among the latest physicians to fall from grace is  66-year-old Richard Albert of Paintsville, who was sentenced last week by U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar in Lexington to 75 months in prison to be followed by three years’ supervised release after pleading guilty to dispensing thousands of prescription painkillers.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Albert also agreed to forfeit more than $630,000 in proceeds and was ordered to pay $100,000 in community restitution. Prosecutors say Albert admitted writing numerous fraudulent prescriptions between January 2009 and February 2011. The prescriptions were typically for Percocet, and court records indicate Albert often wrote some 40 to 50 fraudulent prescriptions in a day.

Prosecutors say the investigation began after large numbers of people routinely were seen lining up outside Care More Pain Management clinic. in Paintsville  Such actions at other pain clinics have led to convictions of physicians throughout the region. But Albert was so greedy that he did not even make more than a minimal effort to conceal his misdeeds.

Although not physicians, 40-year-old Tammy Cantrell of Oil Springs and 50-year-old Shelby Lackey of Williamsport have pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring with doctors to illegally dispense more than 50,000 prescription pain pills at the same clinic where Albert was a physician/pusher. Cantrell and Lackey are scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 5 in federal court in Pikeville. Fortunately, a law adopted by the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly requires that pain clinic be owned and operated by licensed physicians.

We’re not sure how many physicians and pain clinic owners have been convicted for pretending to help patients while just using them to line their pockets. While the owners of pain clinics who are not doctors join a long list of people whose only motivation in money, the physicians had the skills and training to help heal people. To instead abuse that training just to make more money is, in our book, unforgiveable.

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