For more than 25 years, patients suffering in pain sought out Dr. William Bauer. They had crippling injuries from car crashes and work accidents, chronic headaches and debilitating spine issues. At 83, Bauer had a practice in Sandusky that cared for many of the same patients for 10 to 20 years.
Federal prosecutors have accused the neurologist of illegally prescribing thousands of opioid pills between 2015 and 2018.
But realistically, “prescribing thousands of opioid pills” for pain patients is medically appropriate. These drug-warriors should do the math before they toss around meaningless phrases like this just to create drama.
Here’s the math using conservative numbers:
- A single pain patient taking a generic opioid medication that typically only lasts 4-6 hours, will need a dose four times daily, which means 1460 pills each year (4 * 365).
- If the doctor saw only 20 such patients over only a single year the number is already up to almost 30,000 pills. (29,200 to be exact)
- And if the doctor saw these patients for the 3 years between 2015 and 2018, a total of 87,600 pills would have needed to be prescribed.
So what exactly is the crime in prescribing “thousands of opioids”?
He is charged in U.S. District Court with 246 counts of distribution of controlled substances and 24 counts of healthcare fraud. His trial is set for January.
His patients said the government overstepped. They said Bauer is a caring influence, not a pill-mill doctor who shoveled painkillers for cash.
Bauer is one of a growing number of physicians, many specializing in pain management, who have been charged criminally with distributing excessive amounts of opioids.
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Since 2017, more than 450 doctors and medical personnel across the country have been accused of opioid-related charges.
So all these doctors were forced to close their practices without any provision for their patients to be treated elsewhere. This is medical malpractice by institution, the DEA in this case.
But in recent months, there has been a growing undercurrent of resistance.Patients have questioned the government’s motives on social media.
They claimed that prosecutors and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration based their cases solely on the number of prescriptions that doctors have written.
They said that many pain-management specialists are often the sole treatment option in communities, drawing hundreds of patients in need of help.
Authorities have stepped up investigations by using prescriber databases to build criminal cases against physicians and peer into their practices like never before.
‘He kept me going’
The case of Bauer, the pain specialist from Sandusky, stands out.
Bauer’s patients were a diversified lot: About 1,000 received narcotics for pain.
Many came to him after suffering work injuries or car accidents, while others struggled with degenerative issues, according to court records filed by his attorneys, Orville Stifel and Gibbons.
Most of his patients had been referred to Bauer by other doctors. He also treated residents who have multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and chronic headaches.
One man, a 25-year patient who suffered a significant injury in a construction accident, said Bauer used several different treatment options over the years, not just pain pills.
His practice ran into another issue in about 2018, when corporate pharmacies stopped filling prescriptions of independent pain specialists. The decision forced Bauer’s patients to find smaller, non-chain pharmacies.
The indictment said he also
- performed inadequate examinations,
- failed to consider non-opiate treatment options and
- prescribed “high doses of opioids to patients without regard to any improvement in pain level.”
These folks still don’t understand how opioids work: they don’t cure the pain, the just ease it for a few hours (or longer with extended-release and patches). Do they really believe that taking pain medication will make our underlying pain improve so we don’t need them anymore?
The idea of pain that can never be “cured” is still a foreign concept to most people.
U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary ordered Bauer to stop prescribing medications and dealing with patients. In the days after the indictment, his patients struggled to find new doctors who could treat their pain.
Gibbons and Stifel wrote that Bauer was targeted not because of his work as a doctor, but because he has attacked the DEA and regulators for years.
After the charges were filed in August, Bauer spoke to the Sandusky Register in a broadcast interview. In it, he blasted government interference in a patient-doctor relationship.