Clinic reopens after searches

The Pain Medicine and Rehabilitation Center offices in Seymour and Jeffersonville reopened Friday after search warrants were executed the day before.

A Seymour office employee declined to comment Friday on the investigation of Dr. Anthony Alexander, who operates the centers. At the time, Alexander was with

a patient.

Former clinic employees have alleged possible overprescribing of addictive opioid painkillers and fraudulent billing on the part of Alexander, according to a probable cause affidavit.

A search warrant was signed Tuesday by Jackson Circuit Judge Richard W. Poynter. On Thursday, investigators with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Indianapolis District, Indiana State Police and the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit were at the Seymour office at 357 Tanger Blvd. Suite 201B.

They collected paper

and electronic documents and records, patient files, computer hardware and software, and passwords.

That material will be reviewed in consultation with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, which will determine whether any criminal charges will be filed.

At this point, no one has been arrested, and no charges have been filed.

A check of state records shows Alexander obtained his physician’s license from the state Medical Licensing Board on April 1, 1999, and he has not had any actions taken against that license by the board. That license expires Oct. 31, 2015.

Once the law enforcement agencies have completed their investigation, they

will turn the case over to

the prosecutor’s office, Jackson County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Chalfant

said Friday.

Cases such as this one

can require a lot of time,

he added.

“We usually don’t get involved with the case until it is done,” he said. “I don’t know when that will be. The attorney general will bring us a file, and we will read it and find out if there’s anything we can do.”

The search warrant application notes eight drug overdose deaths of patients who received controlled substance prescriptions from Alexander or one of his nurse practitioners between 2008 and 2013.

The attorney general’s

office had a consulting physician review a report obtained from INSPECT, Indiana’s prescription drug monitoring program. The physician found “an extremely high rate and volume of prescribing of opioids to a large population of patients, both short term and chronically.”

Chalfant said he isn’t aware of any similar investigations in the county in the past. But, he added, prescription drug abuse continues to be one of the biggest problems dealt with in the legal system.

“Something which we hear about in society today is there is a lot of people that get addicted to prescription pain medications, so I know that’s something of concern,” he said. “Doctors are the ones who prescribe the pain medication, so I know there’s oversight in regulation of those doctors. This is an investigation to see if the doctor acted properly.”

There are a lot of cases where people are addicted to various kinds of drugs, Chalfant said.

“Those people have complications from their addictions,” he said. “Their life suffers. Their family suffers. They frequently commit more crimes in order to get more drugs.”

Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said the majority of crime revolves around drugs and alcohol.

He said his department

arrests 350 to 500 people

a year on drug-related

charges, and around

$20,000 is spent on

drug investigations.

“If a person can’t afford the prescription medications, they are going to find a way to beg, borrow or steal to make that money to buy the prescription or the illegal drugs,” Abbott said.

There is an issue with opiate-based pain medications being abused.

“The danger with that is once those opiate-based pain medications are stopped being prescribed by the physician or the pain clinic or whoever, then that person will most generally turn toward heroin or some type of opiate-based illegal drug,” Abbott said.

About five years ago, he said, problems with heroin and prescription pills became prevalent here.

“Whether a person is smoking meth or if their drug of choice is meth and they can’t get meth, they are going to start making it themselves or find somebody to cook it for them or find an alternate source to get that meth,” Abbott said.

“Same thing when if they can’t cope for whatever reason and they are addicted to that pain medicine to where they are abusing their prescription medications. They are going to find a way to function. They are going to find a way to ease their pain or feed their addiction.”

In 2012, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller launched the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force to help fight the growing epidemic of drug abuse in the state.

According to in.gov/bitter

pill, drug overdoses were blamed for 999 deaths in Indiana in 2012, a 57 percent increase over the past decade.

In America, 50 people die each day from prescription drug overdose, and more than 6 million people in the U.S. suffer from prescription drug abuse disorders.

The task force has worked with the board of pharmacy, state legislature and medical licensing board on procedures for physicians and pharmacists to follow with regard to the prescribing

of drugs.

If someone has medications they no longer use or need, Abbott said, there are drop-off boxes in the lobby

of the Seymour Police

Department and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department that are accessible 24/7. There also is one available at the Crothersville Police Department during regular business hours.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.