Pubdate: Fri, 28 Oct 2005
Source: Watertown Daily Times (NY)
Copyright: 2005 Watertown Daily Times
Author: James R. Donnelly, staff reporter
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


CANTON - Allegations that a Madrid doctor over prescribed narcotics
and other painkillers should have been dealt with by his fellow
physicians and not the criminal justice system, according to the
president of the Medical Society of the County of St. Lawrence.

Dr. James L. Latimer closed his office and surrendered his state and
federal license a week ago to avoid prosecution. The actions grew out
of a long-running investigation by state police and federal Drug
Enforcement Administration agents into illegal trafficking of
prescription drugs within the county.

"We are very disappointed how the case of Dr. Latimer was handled by
the district attorney's office," J. Lucas Koberda, president of the
medical society, said in a prepared statement released Thursday.

"To our knowledge Dr. Latimer's prescribing anti-pain medication
pattern did not justify criminal charges to be applied," Dr. Koberda
said. Instead, he said, the issue should have been addressed by peer
review medical organizations of local doctors or by the state
Organization of Professional Medical Conduct.

"We would prefer to have worked with local authorities from the
beginning when the case was starting to be investigated in order to
have prevented any possible future medical misconduct which effects
our community," Dr. Koberda said.

Dr. Koberda, a neurologist, said he does not prescribe narcotics for
his patients. But, he said, there is a fear that some chronic pain
suffers will be undertreated by doctors who are afraid to prescribe
narcotics and other powerful drugs.

The Medical Society's formal position on the way the case against Dr.
Latimer was handled followed a meeting with acting District Attorney
Gary W. Miles and several meetings among the doctors themselves, Dr.
Koberda said.

Dr. Gregory Healey, Canton, who did not attend the meeting with Mr.
Miles, said he did not necessarily find the amount of medications
prescribed by Dr. Latimer to be excessive. A patient taking two
painkillers every three hours would take 21 a day or 4,380 a year, he

But, Dr. Healey said: "I can't comment on what I don't know about. The
fact is Dr. Latimer didn't fight it."

Not all the doctors who met with Mr. Miles and his investigators were
dissatisfied with their explanation of the investigation's findings
and his decision to allow Dr. Latimer to avoid prosecution by closing
his practice.

"We were initially quite concerned because we didn't know all of the
details,' said Dr. Jon A. Kay, Canton.

"From what they told us, Dr. Latimer was making some errors that he
should have corrected 18 months ago. But, he refused to cooperate,"
Dr. Kay said. "They were very specific about the violations that he
had been doing, and he ended up not contesting it. He accepted it and

Dr. Latimer was one of three physicians targeted by the investigation.
Dr. Charles A. Locke, Gouverneur, surrendered his license and closed
his practice in May. Dr. Gail E. DeHart, Gouverneur, was arrested the
same month on a charge of criminal sale of a prescription and is
awaiting prosecution.

Despite that, Dr. Kay said, he left the meeting with Mr. Miles
reassured that other doctors are not at risk of becoming targets.

"We are all afraid because of the DEA," said Dr. Alexandru B. Stoian,
a Potsdam cardiologist. He cited a July 25 article in Time magazine
about a nationwide crackdown by the DEA that has resulted in more than
5,600 doctors being investigated nationwide over the past six years.
More than 450 have been prosecuted, according to the article.

"We should have been the ones to discipline Dr. Latimer. This is a
very small community. We can work and solve problems this way," Dr.
Stoian said.

"Dr. Latimer provided a very important service to our community. He
saw a lot of patients without medical insurance," Dr. Stoian said.

Dr. Latimer, who had admitting privileges at Canton-Potsdam Hospital,
Potsdam, had about 4,000 patients when he closed his practice. The
hospital announced Thursday that six doctors have agreed to accept
patients from his practice.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin