Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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Sun editorial:

‘Staggering’ use of pills …

Peers aghast at prescriptions Henderson doctor wrote for patient

The number of pills a Henderson doctor prescribed for a Las Vegas man from January 2005 to June 2008 was so large an investigation by the Nevada Medical Examiners Board is warranted.

During that period Dr. Kevin Buckwalter prescribed more than 20,000 pills for Michael Hammond, who had gone to him complaining of pain from a neck injury.

Hammond admitted to Las Vegas Sun reporter Marshall Allen that within months of beginning his drug treatment he had no more pain complaints. He said he continued to seek refills anyway because the pills made him feel good. He eventually realized, he said, that he was addicted.

Hammond, who has successfully emerged from an addiction recovery program, contacted the Sun after Allen and reporter Alex Richards reported in July on the high rate of prescription drug use among Nevadans.

Allen, assisted by Richards, reported Hammond’s experience with Buckwalter for Tuesday’s Sun. Their research included reviews of Hammond’s prescription drug and medical records that he shared after obtaining them from the state and from Buckwalter.

Additionally, the Sun consulted with a Connecticut doctor, a Florida doctor and two other pain management experts who practice locally. All four reached identical conclusions in their independent analyses of the records — Buckwalter should be investigated.

Addictions to prescription drugs are increasing nationally. We believe doctors should be part of the solution. They should recognize when a patient is demanding an inordinate number of pills and take steps to protect against abuse.

Dr. Andrea Trescot, the Florida pain specialist who reviewed Hammond’s records, included among her conclusions that the quantity of pills prescribed to Hammond was “far above” a reasonable amount.

Dr. David Kloth of Connecticut, past president of the American Society of Intervention Pain Physicians, told the Sun, “I’m not sure this guy (Buckwalter) belongs practicing medicine — and certainly not pain management — if this is representative of his care.”

Of the local pain specialists consulted by the Sun, one called the number of pills prescribed to Hammond “staggering ... horrible.” The other said, “A complaint to the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners is certainly in order.” We agree.

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