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August 20, 2014

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PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS:

License to prescribe lost, practice sold

State officials want to know where Buckwalter is, but say his lawyer isn’t telling

Image

Tiffany Brown

Dr. Kevin Buckwalter worked at this Henderson office, photographed in September. His lawyer says the doctor has not fled and is eager to defend himself. The new owner of Buckwalter’s practice says patients can pick up records at the office, but it would like to keep treating them.

Dr. Buckwalter, In His Own Words

A Deposition of Dr. Buckwalter.

Sun Topics

A Henderson physician whose license to prescribe controlled substances was yanked by state authorities has abruptly sold his business, leaving his 1,500 patients in the hands of a new medical group.

Dr. Kevin Buckwalter, a family physician and pediatrician who has been the subject of a Sun investigation, sold his practice to Summit Medical Group last week — one business day after he lost his license to prescribe controlled substances — officials said.

Louis Ling, executive director of the Nevada State Medical Board, said he learned late last week that Buckwalter had sold his practice, after a Buckwalter patient called the board, complaining of difficulty getting medical records.

Ling said his office wants to know where Buckwalter is — and that his attorney, who is Buckwalter’s brother, isn’t saying.

If Buckwalter plans to continue practicing in Nevada, he must notify the medical board of his whereabouts within 15 days of when he left his clinic, on Nov. 17.

The medical board’s action against Buckwalter came two months after the Sun published the first story in a months-long investigation of Buckwalter’s practice. The Sun found the doctor had been prescribing in alarmingly large amounts narcotics such as hydrocodone, the main ingredient in Vicodin and Lortab; oxycodone, the main ingredient in OxyContin; and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

Experts who reviewed Buckwalter medical records — with the permission of patients and their families — told the Sun his prescription habits contributed to three deaths and one overdose.

In its own investigation, the Medical Board said it found four alleged cases of medical malpractice, including one that led to a patient’s death. In that case, Buckwalter prescribed “excessive” doses of the narcotic painkillers OxyContin and Kadian in 2004 and 2005, documents show.

In the three other cases, Buckwalter’s records show no evaluation of the patients’ responses to medications, no explanations for why patients were given maximum allowable doses and few records related to treatment outcomes or justification of increased controlled substance prescriptions, the medical board complaint said.

Don Baile, whose wife of 50 years died in April while under Buckwalter’s care, said he was relieved to hear the doctor is out of business, but suspicious about his reasons for shutting down his office. He said he wonders if Buckwalter is running away from the medical board, which is still investigating him after it summarily suspended his license to prescribe controlled substances on Nov. 13. The Drug Enforcement Administration also is investigating his practice. Baile said he is planning to sue Buckwalter and hopes he can never practice again.

Buckwalter’s clinic is now being operated by a physician who works for Summit, a Las Vegas group owned by California-based HealthCare Partners.

Patient records are now available for anyone who wants them, though Summit Medical Group’s plan is to continue seeing the same patients, a spokesman for the medical group said.

Bryce Buckwalter, the physician’s attorney and brother, said in an e-mail to the Sun that his brother is not fleeing the medical board or the state, and that he is offended that anyone would make such allegations.

“We plan on vigorously defending all of (the) claims made by the state and are looking forward to our hearing,” Buckwalter wrote.

After the medical board reviews more patient records, its complaint may be amended to include more charges against Buckwalter, officials said. At that time, a hearing will be scheduled.

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