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Home News-Telegram News DEA asks for local physician’s records; doctor voluntarily gives up prescription certification while medical board reviews files

DEA asks for local physician’s records; doctor voluntarily gives up prescription certification while medical board reviews files

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A longtime Sulphur Springs physician said today he voluntarily surrendered his ability to write prescriptions for controlled medications while the state medical board reviews the records of 10 of his patients.

Dr. Don O’Neal said he was visited by a representative of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Texas Medical Board on Tuesday at his offices in the Family Healthcare Associates Clinic, also known as the Medical-Surgical Clinic.

“They said they were concerned that maybe some of my patients were diverting medications into illegal street drugs, selling their pills on the street,” he said.

Dr. O’Neal, who has been practicing medicine in Sulphur Springs for 33 years, said he willingly cooperated with the authorities.

“If there is a problem with a patient I’m treating, please, let me know. I want to know if a patient is illegally selling their drugs,” he said this morning. “Everybody that comes in that takes [pain medication], I lecture them every visit about the illegalities. I follow all the state guidelines.”

Dr. O’Neal said he also has patients who take such prescriptions sign an “Opioid Statement,” agreeing to only use one pharmacy, not getting prescription from two doctors, and other provisions aimed at lessening the chances of substance abuse.

Dr. O’Neal said he was the subject of a similar inquiry a little over a year ago.

“Somebody sent five of my patients, referred them to the Texas Medical Board,” R. O’Neal said. “The Texas Medical Board wrote me that I’d had a complaint about these five patients.”

All the patients mentioned in the complaint, he said, were chronically ill.

“It took me two weeks to compile letters and get all the stuff to the medical board, and it took them six months to review because it was a stack of papers two feet high on these patients,” he recalled. “All five of those were resolved, and they said my medical care was appropriate. I hadn’t heard another word until

they showed up yesterday.”

Dr. O’Neal said he was visited Tuesday by a DEA officer “and a representative of the Texas Medical Board representative that they called to come and be with them.”

The physician said the DEA officer had the names of 10 people they were “concerned about” and wanted the state board to review the files.

“I said fine,” Dr. O’Neal said. “I know them all by heart — they’re people that need their medications. They’re not people that get ‘em and sell ‘em.”

But he also said when he told them it would take about a month to compile all the necessary documentation needed for the review, he was asked to turn in his DEA certificate.

“They said, ‘In the meantime, we want you to relinquish your DEA certificate,’ meaning that while they’re investigating this, then I won’t be able to prescribe any more pain medications or controlled substances.”

Dr. O’Neal said he voluntarily complied, and that his only concern was for the people he treats.

“What about my patients in the nursing home, the ones on hospice that are dying that I have on pain medications, the ones with chronic illness?” he recalled. “They said, ‘Well, they’ll just have to get another doctor.’

“I’m upset for my patients,” he said, but added, “I can understand what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to get drugs off the street.”

Dr. O’Neal indicated the rumor mill has been active since Tuesday.

“There wasn’t a raid, they didn’t bust down any doors,” he said. “I wasn’t taken off in handcuffs. Our clinic is still operational, we’re still seeing people.

“And I’m still practicing, but I’m limited because so many medicines are controlled, and that’s off limits right now. Now, if the cases all clear I can get my number back. I can still see my patients medically, but when it comes to refilling pain medicine, I’m going to have to get one of my colleagues to step in and do that.”

In the meantime, he says he has nothing to hide.

“I’d be glad to talk to the DA or anybody, and I have tried, but I’ve not gotten a response,” he said. “I don’t know if there are legal issues with that or what, but I think if there is a problem in the community, we should be able to talk about it.”

Dr. O’Neal, 62, has been practicing medicine in Texas for 33 years. He received his medical degree in 1973 from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas before performing his internship and residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

His primary specialty is family practice, and he has been certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. His secondary specialty is in the area of geriatric medicine.

According to information from the Texas Medical Board, there have been no investigations of him for medical malpractice, and he has no criminal history, although he has been disciplined for one minor infraction dealing with record keeping.

On June 8, 2007, the Texas Medical Board and Dr. O’Neal entered into an agreed order requiring that his practice be monitored by another physician for one year, and that he obtain five hours of continuing education in the area of medical record keeping. The action was based on inadequate medical records. His status was cleared on June 9 of 2008, however.

 

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