Pubdate: Wed, 16 Apr 2003
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Author: Jim Todd


Curtis: Santos Was Concerned About His Patients' Welfare

GREENUP - A former South Shore doctor on trial for illegally prescribing 
controlled substances was simply trying to help his patients who suffered 
from chronic pain, according to his attorney.

Dr. Rodolfo Santos was following the state Board of Medical Licensure's 
position that controlled substances is a way to treat chronic pain 
sufferers, Michael Curtis said in his opening statement.

The doctor was concerned about his patients' welfare and warned them about 
abusing the medications he prescribed, Curtis said.

"The people he saw were physically sick, complicated by a lack of education 
and understanding of why they couldn't get jobs," Curtis said. "They felt 
like nothing and had lost their self-respect.

"Somebody had to meet their needs ... Doctor Santos treated them with 
respect as human beings," Curtis added. "He did so by utilizing medications 
that would adequately treat people with physical complaints."

There is a growing concern in the medical profession about under treatment 
of pain rather than over treatment and it needs to be addressed, Curtis 
said. The state medical licensure board has recognized that inadequate pain 
control is caused by a physician's ignorance or mismanagement of a 
patient's care or needs, he said.

Santos' trial on seven counts of illegally prescribing controlled 
substances began Monday in Greenup Circuit Court. If convicted, the doctor 
faces up to five years in prison on each count.

The prosecution has alleged that Santos illegally prescribed drugs to an 
informant, Mary Reed.

Curtis said the woman, who wore a wire when she went to Santos' office, 
Plaza Health Care in South Shore, laid $500 on a table in front of the 
doctor in an effort to obtain more prescriptions than the four he wrote. 
"He didn't bite on that," Curtis said.

The medicines prescribed to the informant who complained of neck, back and 
knee pain, were the Schedule 3 painkiller Lorcet, a form of hydrocodone, 
and two Schedule 4 medicines, Xanax for anxiety and Soma, a muscle relaxant.

Both Schedule 3 and 4 substances can be prescribed for up to 90 days with 
five refills available within six months, even by telephone to the doctor, 
Curtis said.

It was Santos who contacted a Kentucky State Police narcotics investigator 
in September 2001 about a patient he thought was "doctor shopping" to 
obtain multiple prescriptions at the same time, Curtis said.

Santos, whose license to practice medicine was suspended following his 
arrest June 11, 2002, also contacted the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy about 
patients he thought were abusing drugs before a board representative 
visited him In January 2002, Curtis said.

"Doctor Santos was making $2,500 a week, grossing $130,000 a year before 
deducting state and federal taxes and Social Security payments," Curtis 
said. "He had no control of the billing or taking in money."

Because of court schedules, the trial is expected to go through Wednesday 
and then resume Monday. Santos remains out of jail on bond.
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