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Ohio AG: Pain clinics gone from hard-hit county

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
AP Legal Affairs Writer / December 20, 2011
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COLUMBUS, Ohio—The last pain medication clinic in a southern Ohio county plagued by painkiller addictions and overdose deaths was shut down Tuesday, the Ohio attorney general announced Tuesday.

Greater Medical Advance in Wheelersburg, with just one doctor, doled out 14,000 prescriptions in nine months, Attorney General Mike DeWine said in announcing the closure and four indictments.

"At one point there was over a dozen pill mills in Scioto County," DeWine said in a phone interview. "As of this morning, there are zero. So we're very happy about that."

The Drug Enforcement Administration has said the southern Ohio county is one of the worst places in the country for painkiller abuse.

Tuesday's announcement came the same day the first defendant in another so-called pill mill case pleaded guilty to illegally shuttling painkiller prescriptions to pharmacists willing to fill them.

James Sadler pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of diverting controlled substances at a hearing in federal court in Cincinnati. Sadler is free on his own recognizance. His attorney did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday.

A 2010 indictment against Sadler and other operators of Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly alleged that in some cases, customers traveled more than 200 miles round trip to be treated at the southern Ohio clinic.

In the Wheelersburg case, a county grand jury indicted four people with charges including engaging in corrupt activity, drug trafficking and drug possession, DeWine's office said.

The clinic's doctor, Victor Georgescu, and its operator, George Adkins, were each charged with engaging in corrupt activity, conspiracy to engage in corrupt activity, funding drug trafficking and permitting drug abuse, according to DeWine. Georgescu was arrested in Centerville in suburban Dayton on Tuesday.

Georgescu and Adkins were not booked into the county jail by early afternoon and information about their attorneys was not immediately available. A message was left at the clinic for Georgescu; a home listing for Adkins was not functioning.

Stopping the abuse of powerful prescription painkillers has become a top priority for Ohio officials.

In 2007, drug overdoses, led by an increase in prescription painkiller addictions, surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio. It's a trend also seen in several other states.

In May, Gov. John Kasich signed into law a bill cracking down on pain management clinics, dubbed pill mills by their critics and blamed by health officials for contributing to hundreds of overdose deaths in Ohio each year.

The law requires the State Board of Pharmacy for the first time to license pain clinics as distributors of dangerous drugs.

The law also puts limits on how many pills a doctor could dispense directly at a clinic and tries to reduce the illegal distribution of prescription painkillers by creating a statewide system for collecting unused supplies of the narcotics.

The DEA has recently suspended the prescription-writing powers of physicians in a part of southern Ohio plagued by painkiller abuse.

More than 1,300 people died from accidental drug overdoses in 2009 in Ohio, according to the most recent data from the Ohio Department of Health. The number of fatal overdoses has more than quadrupled from 1999, when the state recorded 327 accidental deaths, according to the department.

The numbers are particularly bad in Scioto County in Appalachia, where high unemployment rates and a profusion of pill mills have led to growing addiction rates.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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