“Indignant”: White denies pill mill claim

Friday, January 19, 2018

Pam White isn’t happy, and she doesn’t mind letting 17th judicial District Attorney General Robert Carter know about it.

“He knows very little of what he speaks,” White said of Carter. “He should be ashamed that he did this.”

What Carter did was single out the Lewisburg pain management clinic that White and her husband Ed own, Montclair Health and Wellness, which does business as Specialty Associates on Cornersville Highway, as a pill mill, alleging that it “participates in the illegal opioid drug market” in a civil suit filed last week.

“I’m in shock,” White said. “Are you (Carter) running for office?”

“He didn’t verify any of this. He didn’t talk to me. He didn’t investigate any of this stuff,” she said.

He hadn’t yet notified White of the suit yet, either.

The Tribune provided White with a copy of the complaint filed in Cumberland County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Jan. 10. Montclair had not been served with notice of the suit as of Wednesday, Jan. 17.

“You aren’t supposed to find out about this in the paper (for the first time),” she said

The civil suit lists Carter, who serves Marshall, Moore, Bedford, and Lincoln Counties, and four other Tennessee district attorneys as plaintiffs.

White vehemently disagrees with the claims in the suit, that the clinic is a participant in the misuse or diversion on to the street of opioids.

“We have done no such thing,” she said.

“We are a really good clinic,” said White. “We know our stuff and I think we are an asset to the community.”

White went into great detail about the precautions that they take in order to avoid the potential for abuse.

Patients were subject to urine drug screens at every visit and at random, she said.

Two pill counts are required by the state every year, in order to make sure that the patient has as many pills in their possession as they should if they are taking the medicine as prescribed or not diverting pills into the street trade.

“We comply or over comply,” said White.

State law requires prescribers to check the controlled substance database at least twice per year for each patient and up to four times a year for high risk cases.

“We access it every visit,” she said.

Patients are assessed every visit for any potential red flags for misuse of their prescriptions and receive face to face counseling about the risks and benefits of opiate use for chronic pain.

The clinic also gives each of its patients a 37 page booklet written by White herself on responsible opiate use, detailing the do’s and don’ts of using the drugs as well as other ways of managing pain..

“There is no question that we don’t know about the state law or the guidelines,” she said.

Montclair isn’t focused on pills as their only treatment option either, she said.

“We are constantly seeking alternatives (to opioids),” said White.

The clinic is in the process of finalizing plans for a new building where they would be able to offer Tai Chi and aquatherapy, two alternative treatment methods shown to be effective in treating some pain issues in patients.

The clinic is testing suggested combinations of over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen as a way to reduce pain without as many opiates, she added.

White herself is currently on a sabbatical from the clinic in order to earn a psychiatric mental health nurse diploma, so that she can offer additional mental health resources for patients.

White also showed the Tribune examples of the frequent contacts by email and text messages that the clinic had with the state’s Office of the Inspector General investigating Tenncare fraud and with local law enforcement regarding possible cases of illegal drug diversion by clinic patients.

“I’m in contact trying to eliminate problems,” she said.

She said that agents with Lewisburg Police had told her that it was refreshing to have somebody who cared enough to do that.

The clinic was also in the process of hiring their own private detective to help investigate potential abuse.

“They should hope to have a clinic like this,” she said. “Who does this?”

“If he (Carter) wants to tell me something I can do better,” White said, “bring it on.”

A close reading of the suit doesn’t detail any specific claims about Montclair, either.

Their inclusion seems to be tied to their medical director, Mark Murphy, based on a complaint filed against him with the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners in August of 2016.

Murphy ran two clinics in Alabama and the suit points to data showing that he was the fifth ranked opiate prescriber in the state.

“He had a huge practice and he did come under focus,” she said of Murphy’s Alabama clinics.

“I’ll stand by him, shoulder to shoulder, toe to toe,” said White. “I’ve never met a finer man.”

The suit implies that Murphy did not renew his Alabama medical license in December of 2016 in order to avoid the complaint.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, White said, noting that they had spoken with Murphy three or four years ago about retiring to Tennessee and he had never planned to renew his license.

“He voluntarily retired,” she said. “You don’t get out of a crime by leaving the state.”

The complaint against Murphy was dismissed by the Medical Licensure Commission of Alabama early in 2017.

White is concerned about the impact this will have on the clinic’s patients.

She described the typical patient they see as between 50 and 70 years old with many cases of failed back surgeries leading to chronic pain.

“They are good people and they don’t deserve this and neither do we,” she said.

“We are an asset to this community, said White, “not a pariah.”

“I’ve been in this community for over 40 years,” she said. “I would never do anything to hurt anyone in this community.”