Pill Mill Doc Gets Four Life Sentences

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You can still find Dr. Paul Volkman listed on HealthGrades, a site that allows patients to rate their doctors. He shows three out of five stars. Not bad for a guy who has been sentences to four life sentences.

Dr. Volkman's history

Digging deeper on the site, you can find the sanctions history, dating back to 2009. Dr. Volkman was licensed in Illinois, but practiced in Ohio. His specialty was emergency medicine, but he was convicted of playing fast and loose with prescribing pain medications. Since some of those illegal prescriptions led to the death of patients, he got tapped for four deaths.

The DEA press release details some of the crimes, including this bit: “Volkman prescribed and dispensed millions of dosages of various drugs including diazepam, hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, and carisoprodol.” Yes, that’s right, millions.

Complicit pharmacy

The good doctor also directed his patients to a pharmacy willing to ignore the blatant violations of medical ethics and dispense the drugs. In a separate case, the owner of East Main Pharmacy pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 27 months in prison. No deaths were laid at his door, the conviction was for illegal distribution and tax crimes.

The link between doctor and pharmacy is important. We rely on pharmacists to oversee what physicians are up to – when the numbers exceed the norm so egregiously, pharmacists have a responsibility to say something. If they don’t, they become culpable along with the doctor.

A success for the DEA

This case is important because we live in a time where the most dangerous drugs, the ones that kill the most people, are coming from pharmacies right down the street, not the poppy fields of a far off country. And the frustrating thing is that the current system – including patient tracking, pharmacist oversight of doctors and good accounting for narcotics – should prevent the practice of pill pushing. In this case, it took at least two broken links in the chain. The third, the DEA itself, did work.

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