Agents raid pain doctor's office

"The hidden agenda is pain management,"

March 2006 - Dr. Linda Cheek, a New River Valley pain doctor, says her office was raided Tuesday afternoon by more than a dozen law enforcement agents who "documented the contents of every box and file drawer" and who said their search warrant was Medicaid-related.

Although no federal agency would confirm an investigation of Linda Cheek's practice at New River Medical Associates in Dublin, Capt. George Austin with the Virginia State Police said his agency assisted in the execution of a search warrant Tuesday in Pulaski County.

Austin referred questions to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Roanoke, which declined to comment.

Heidi Coy, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Roanoke, would neither confirm nor deny an investigation.

"Charges have not been filed, but the justification for the search warrant was billing," Cheek, 57, wrote in an e-mail to The Roanoke Times. "The hidden agenda is pain management."

According to Cheek, she is a primary care physician who has been in practice for 10 years. She took up alternative medicine in 2000, first practicing acupuncture, which led to an interest in pain management.

Cheek said she has treated pain for the past six years and for three of those years has used multidisciplinary techniques such as psychiatric counseling and "cleansing," a procedure that removes toxins from the body.

When she asked insurance companies about how to bill some of those treatments, Cheek said, she was told to simply do it the best way she could, and see what happened. She said she has only billed insurance or state and federal health care programs for evaluation and management of the related health problem, physical therapy, electrical therapy and hypnosis.

Cheek said it is her opinion that the whole coding system is unaccommodating to alternative medicine specialists.

"I have to be true to the science more than I have to be true to the government," she said.

Cheek said she does prescribe Schedule II painkillers such as OxyContin and methadone, and her two nurse practitioners cannot prescribe pain medication so she signs their prescriptions for them. She added that it probably looks on record as though she prescribes three times what a normal doctor would prescribe.

Although Cheek suggests that the investigation is about her pain practice, there is no evidence to suggest it played a role in the raid.

Dozens of doctors across the country have faced charges in connection with their prescribing practices, including former Roanoke pain doctor Dr. Cecil Knox. Once facing more than 300 charges, Knox was partially acquitted in 2003 by a jury that was hung on the remaining charges.

Knox pleaded guilty to three felonies in October and was sentenced in January to five years' probation. He also voluntarily gave up his license to practice medicine.

Staff writer Paul Dellinger contributed to this report.

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