Currently, the only way for the AG’s office to access those records is to wait for law enforcement to serve a search warrant as part of a criminal investigation. Once law enforcement gets the records, then Zoeller’s office can subpoena them.
Checking clinic records whenever Indiana’s electronic pharmacy tracking system sends up a red flag would be one way to get ahead of the curve and act against overprescribing doctors sooner, Zoeller explained.
“When you’re just waiting for deaths to occur ... there should be something prior to that,” Zoeller said.
He’s selling the measure to doctors as a way to address the issue before seeking criminal prosecution.
“I don’t want to start off by accusing doctors of something that’s criminal, but if that’s what I’m left with, I’ll do what I have to do,” he said.
Grooms added, “This bill doesn’t fix everything, but it does give more agencies awareness, and it sends the message that Indiana’s going to pursue this and enforce every law we can.”
The bill, SB246, requires every pain management clinic in Indiana be owned and operated by someone who holds a valid registration to prescribe controlled substances.
Many of the abuses can be tied to the prescribing practices at a small minority of clinics, Grooms added.
Finally, the medical licensing board will be asked to begin work to establish standards of care so doctors have a clear definition of “overprescribing.”
Indiana, Grooms said, doesn’t have a set standard. That’s a problem in and of itself, he added.
“The [pain clinic] in Jeffersonville was a pill mill for cash,” Zoeller said. “In the easiest cases, you’re not even talking about standards of care, you’re just talking about pushing pills onto people who will travel long distances to get them.”
Zoeller said the problem goes beyond the doctors who prescribe, and the state needs to take what steps it can.
“The whole issue of pain tolerance — sometimes I think we’ve just given up on it,” he said. “I tell my kids if they say they’ve got a headache, go drink a glass of water and get over it. You don’t have to take a pill for everything.”