NEWS AND TRIBUNE
The Indiana Attorney General has asked the state’s Medical Licensing Board to suspend the license of the doctor writing prescriptions out of the downtown Clark County Wellness Center LLC.
According to a press release from the attorney general’s office, since January, Dr. Lea Marlow has written more than 8,000 prescriptions for 3,489 patients, with more than 95 percent of those patients receiving prescriptions for Oxycodone, practices which it said “fall well outside the boundaries of safe and appropriate medical treatment.”
“Our office filed for an emergency suspension against Dr. Marlow’s license as we believe she poses an immediate threat to the public’s health and safety,” said Gabrielle Owens, deputy director of the Attorney General’s Licensing Enforcement and Homeowner Protection Unit in the release. “Considering the evidence of her prescribing practices, it is clear the minimum standards of acceptable pain management practices have not been met. The attorney general’s office is committed to investigating and bringing actions against those who may prey upon addicts and add to the illegal supply of narcotics in our state.”
The medical licensing board will consider the petition for summary suspension at its next meeting Thursday, Dec. 6.
Owens said if the suspension is granted, Marlow could not practice medicine for 90 days while the attorney general’s office drafts a formal complaint to submit to the board.
Clark County Wellness has been a source of controversy since it moved into Jeffersonville at 526 E. Maple St. in late July.
Residents in the Franklin Commons Neighborhood were opposed to the pain management clinic locating in their neighborhood, because many feared the clinic was a “pill mill” that moved to Indiana because of tougher restrictions recently passed in Kentucky.
Kentucky requires that the owner of a pain-management clinic be a licensed physician, whereas anyone can own such a business in Indiana. Indiana does, however, limit prescription drugs from being handed out at a pain management facility. A medical doctor at the facility must write prescriptions, then patients have to go to a pharmacy to have the prescription filled.
Owner of Clark County Wellness Will Singleton previously operated a pain management clinic — Central Kentucky Bariatric and Pain Management — in Georgetown, Ky., before opening the operation in Jeffersonville.
According to the release, Marlow worked for Central Kentucky Bariatric and Pain Management in February and moved to Clark County Wellness Center when it opened for business. The petition filed by the attorney general’s office said the doctor does not accept payment from private insurance companies or government entitlement programs and instead operates as a “cash-only” business.
Owens said in the release that virtually all Marlow’s patients receive identical treatment in the form of Oxycodone and diazepam prescriptions.
Concerns were raised by local residents that many of the clinic’s customers were coming from out-of-state and they claimed the bulk of the license plates coming to the clinic were from Kentucky and Ohio. Neighbors also were concerned with the volume of customers that would be at the clinic — citing 20 to 30 customers waiting in the morning before the clinic opened.
Derek Spence, president Franklin Commons Neighborhood Association, said he was pleased to hear the attorney general’s office has requested that Marlow’s license be suspended.
“If they saw half of what we’ve seen, they know there is something unholy going on in that place,” he said. “The sense of legitimacy is not there. They’ve not been good neighbors and it’s not a good fit for a neighborhood.”
Another consequence of the hearing could be If the business is closed or halted, it would force the clinic to move from Jeffersonville to operate.
“If her license is suspended, it is our interpretation that they would no longer would be grandfathered in,” said City Attorney Les Merkley. “They are no longer a legal conforming use.”
In the wake of the pain management moving into Jeffersonville, the city put a moratorium on allowing any new clinics to locate in the city while they drafted a law that would limit where a pain management clinic could locate.
Two ordinances were passed at a November city council meeting that restricted clinics that offer pain prescriptions to patients to industrial zones and keeps them from locating within 1,000 feet of a place of worship, a school, public park or the boundary of a residential district.
Merkley said during the meeting that Clark County Wellness was not subjected to the new restrictions and were allowed to operate in its current location under a grandfather clause. He added that as long as the clinic stays open continuously, the new restrictions passed will have no affect on the business.
However, if the business halts operations or closes it doors the restrictions would apply, he said.
“Everyone would be thrilled if that were the consequence of this,” Spence said, referring to the closure of the clinic. “The only concern is the doctor is not the owner. So, if [Singleton] hires another doctor, there’s an outside chance things would continues as is.”
“I think justice will be served,” said Mayor Mike Moore. “I know Franklin Commons has been fighting hard against this. They are aggravated and pleading for help. It sounds like the state has heard their complaints. I think the doctor has written too many prescriptions and hopefully they will suspend her license.”
According to the release, in licensing cases the board has the authority to determine what if any disciplinary action will be taken.
Calls made to Singleton were not returned as of press time.