Doctors accused in patient deaths may keep licenses

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Four Kokomo-based doctors were accused of over-prescribing pain medications that led to addictions and more than two dozen patient deaths. But now those doctors can keep their licenses after a controversial ruling Wednesday.

All four doctors work for the Wagoner Medical Center. Last week, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed petitions with the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana against Dr. Don Wagoner, his wife Dr. Marilyn Wagoner, Dr. Robert Brewer and Dr. William Terpstra. Wagoner Medical Center has an office at 821 N. Dixon Rd. in Kokomo and 605 E. 7th St. in Burlington.

The state and coroner's reports say 26 patients died from overdoses from drugs prescribed by doctors at the Wagoner Medical Center. The Attorney General's office claims the Wagoners and the two other doctors are a danger to their patients and the public.

A last-minute agreement between the Wagoners' lawyer and the licensing board dropped an emergency order to suspend their medical licenses. In exchange, the doctors are no longer allowed to write prescriptions for pain.

Terpstra and Brewer will still be allowed to write prescriptions.

"The state is in negotiation with their attorneys to reach a similar agreement that was reached with Dr. Wagoner and Dr. Wagoner," said Deputy Attorney General Gabrielle Owens.

Scott Rinker, a former patient of Dr. Marilyn Wagoner, says the doctor wrote him prescriptions for pain, however he rarely saw her in person.

"I very rarely saw Dr. Marilyn Wagoner," said Rinker.

He says it was a nurse practitioner or one of the physician's assistants at the clinic who gave him the prescriptions.

"He would come in, the script would more than likely already be filled out, sit there for a second or two looking through my chart and he would hand me a script. Had hardly any interaction," said Rinker.

The state alleges that both of the Wagoners, along with the other doctors, pre-signed prescription pads for the staff to distribute freely to patients. According to paperwork filed by the Attorney General's office, many of those patients were selling their prescriptions, which the state claims the doctors knew was happening and did nothing to stop.

The state set a second hearing for the doctors in April, which means they escaped suspensions for at least another month. The DEA and the Howard County Prosecutor's Office is also investigating the Wagoner Medical Center.

Case history

Six weeks ago the Drug Enforcement Agency raided the Wagoner Medical Center and found they over-prescribed controlled pain medications and used unsafe pharmacological mixes that the attorney general says led addictions and patient deaths.

Don Wagoner started his medical practice in the Burlington building in the 1960s. The doctors caught the attention of the attorney general's office when patients died.

"At this point, we have alleged 12 patient deaths," said Jessica Krug of the Attorney General's office. "We believe that the physicians at the clinic that we have filed against were contributing to or creating addiction or maintaining addictions and may have contributed to or caused the death of several patients."

The Attorney General's office says Wagoner and the other doctors routinely ignored acceptable standards of medical practice of the dozen patients. The complaint does not use the patients' names - they are assigned a letter.