Another Pain Clinic Shutdown July 2010

1st Medical Group on Dale Mabry has recently had its doors closed and the practice manager Jorge Betancourt-Gonzales was arrested for money laundering.  You can see the full article online at and I couldn’t agree more with the comment about this being a witch hunt for all pain clinics vs just shutting down the “pill mills”.  The counties have imposed their own amendments and implemented them prior to posting in some counties.  How can a clinic be compliant when they haven’t been given access to the regulations?  On the flip side, I have had a few patients put their very lives at risk by just discontinuing their medically necessary medications because they didn’t want their family or friends to see them as “just a junkie visiting a prescription whore”.

I think something had to be done to stop the clinics that are not owned and run by doctors that were just “running a business”, but unfortunately they have created new problems such as it being so difficult for a solo legitimate practitioner to practice the right way that a lot will just change specialties, retire, or quit.  This will leave a large gap in medicine as most people whom are experiencing chronic pain are usually referred to pain management specialist due to the complexity of the treatments.  Pain medicine is a very time consuming specialty and there are no real tests that I can order that will measure the amount of pain that a patient is in.  We must do this by physical exam, extensive history and consultation with the patient.  In my opinion,  all patients that are currently under treatment with pain management should ask questions and don’t be afraid to jump off a sinking ship.  It is better to ask up front than jump and find yourself in the same position.

I would ask the qualifications of their staff doctor, is the clinic owned by physician (they have more at stake when they do.  Also there is pending legislation that will come into effect this October that will make it mandatory to have physician ownership).  Ask these things up front because you don’t want to keep having to find a new doctor paying for a new patient consult over and over.   Question if you will see the same doctor at each visit.  This enhances the quality and continuity of care for the patients.  Find out up front if doctor prescribes the medications that you are currently taking.  Some doctors will no longer write medically necessary scripts for Oxycodone for example because they don’t want the liability.

What will become of those patients?  Unfortunately when they are closing down the “pill mills”, as they are referred to, there is no thought as to the continuation of care for these patients.  Like it or not, these patients are on these medications and they will need help coming off them safely and finding a legitimate physician to assume care for them.  I think the people coming up with these rules have never had chronic pain. They should also ensure that there is a place for the patients to go for drug detox & there should be state funding for this. It would be smarter & cheaper for society than as we do it now with 50% of the people in the federal penitentiary are there for nonviolent drug charges at the cost of over $35,000 per year! Is this really how you want your tax dollars to work for you? I hope the politicians & police dabbling in the complex problem of pain management never suffer from chronic pain and I hope they never do because there may not be any legitimate pain specialists left. But then again, sometimes there is poetic justice…


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