Federal Investigators Claim Local Doctors Over Prescribed Opioids, Causing 4 Patient Deaths

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) — Federal authorities allege that two River Valley doctors prescribed an excessive amount of opioids to four patients who later fatally overdosed.

Agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency have accused Dr. Donald E. Hinderliter, and Cecil W. Gaby of dispensing opioids “outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose,” according to a federal search warrant unsealed Monday (Nov. 27) in U.S. District Court.

The agents said a doctor — identified only by his title — and others claimed Hinderliter and Gaby were charging cash and prescribing pain and anxiety drugs like hydrocodone and benzodiazepine in the same amounts regardless of a patient’s prognosis or need.

Neither doctor has been arrested or charged, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Gaby’s medical license has since been suspended and has a disciplinary hearing set for February 2019.

Investigators said they learned of several alarming issues regarding the doctors and their practices — Hinderliter Pain Clinic and Gaby Pain Clinic — from local pharmacists and former patients, including:

  • The people who fatally overdosed had been prescribed a mixture of pain and anxiety medications like oxycodone and alprazolam
  • Hinderliter prescribed 1,803 pills per patient over two years with an average MME of 136
  • Gaby prescribed 3,332 pills per patient over two years with an average MME of 108
  • Local pharmacists noted Gaby and Hinderliter often wrote combination prescriptions for narcotics and patients had the same doses and medications regardless of their treatment
  • A former patient said Gaby “runs a pill mill … a person can obtain any amount of pharmaceutical narcotics. This is known to everyone in the pill world.”
  • Gaby and Hinderliter appear on Walmart pharmacies’ “Do Not Fill List”

Morphine milligram equivalents, or MME, are assigned to measure a drug’s potency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say dosages at or above 50 MME can double the risk of overdoses.

The DEA raided the Western Arkansas Medical Clinic — which has the same address, 1311 Fort St., as Hinderliter’s clinic — last summer as part of an investigation into a local doctor. Officials declined to comment on details about the investigation.

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment Tuesday (Nov. 27).

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