23 Sep 2003
Source: Sun News (Myrtle Beach SC)
Webpage: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/mld/sunnews/6838526.htm

Two doctors sentenced in OxyContin case
Center worker also sent to prison
By Kenneth A. Gailliard

The Sun News
Oxycontin is a potent and popular pain killer.

FLORENCE - A federal judge has sentenced two doctors and an employee from a former Myrtle Beach pain center for improperly prescribing narcotics, including the painkiller OxyContin, over about five years.

Drs. Michael Woodward and Venkata Pulivarthi are the first of seven doctors from the Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Center to face sentencing.

Woodward, the former owner of the center, must serve 15 years, followed by 3 years of supervised release.

Pulivarthi, who worked at the center about three months, was sentenced to three years probation.

Windy Suggs, an employee at the business, received a two-year sentence, followed by three years of supervised release.

A 93-count federal indictment that included allegations of illegal distribution of narcotics and health care fraud named eight doctors and three employees. One doctor, Benjamin Moore, committed suicide after pleading guilty.

Federal Judge C. Weston Houck issued the sentences Monday, reducing each because the three defendants helped investigators.

During a two-week trial in January and February, a parade of former patients described the pain center as an OxyContin distribution point.

Although many consider OxyContin effective for chronic pain, it's commonly misused, experts say.

Monday's sentences could make people aware that if they misuse OxyContin, they can be prosecuted, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Day said.

"The message is they can get sentenced to jail time," Day said.

For Litchfield Beach resident William King III, the sentences represent justice. He said his sister, Patricia King, a former patient of Woodward's, overdosed about seven years ago.

"I trust in the judgment of Judge Houck," he said.

Before his sentence, Woodward said, "As you know, I've had a long time to reflect on my acts, and I believe I am a better person now than I used to be."

He was sentenced for drug conspiracy, health care fraud and money laundering.

His lawyer, William Watkins, asked Houck to allow him to be in prison near Florida, where his wife and children live. It was not clear Monday where he would be located.

Pulivarthi said he was guilty of poor judgement for working at the center so long. He was sentenced on drug conspiracy charges.

Suggs apologized and asked for mercy after her family and friends asked the judge for leniency. She was sentenced for money laundering.

Houck also reduced the sentence of David Vandergriff, another former employee, from 15 months to just more than 12 months. Vandergriff has served about six months.

Awaiting sentencing are Drs. Deborah Sutherland, Ricardo Alerre, Michael Jackson, Thomas Devlin and Deborah Bordeaux. Sentencing dates have not been set.

Newshawk: chip
Pubdate: 20 Sep 2003
Source: Sun News (SC)
Author: Kenneth A. Gailliard

Three tied to MB pain clinic to be sentenced
By Kenneth A. Gailliard
The Sun News

Oxycontin is a potent and popular pain killer.

The former owner and two employees of a defunct Myrtle Beach pain clinic face sentencing Monday on federal charges related to illegal distribution of the potent pain killer OxyContin and other drugs.

Federal Judge C. Weston Houck will sentence David Michael Woodward, the owner of the Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Center; Dr. Venkata R. Pulivarthi; and Windy Suggs, a former employee of the business, at 10 a.m. in Florence.

The three have pleaded guilty to involvement in illegally distributing narcotics, including OxyContin, to hundreds of pain center patients between 1997 and 2001.

Woodward, Pulivarthi and Suggs testified earlier this year against three other doctors in the case, in exchange for consideration for lesser sentences.

They face sentences ranging from about two years to 60 years in prison. Woodward, who has been in federal custody, faces the longest sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Day said.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents said ramifications of the clinic's operations continue to be felt statewide, as arrests connected to illegal OxyContin sales have become more widespread since federal agents closed the Myrtle Beach clinic.

"The patients who were going to the pain clinic still need to find a source for OxyContin and they are going to other places in the state, including doctors and people who are selling the drug or issuing prescriptions," said John Ozaluk, agent in charge at the DEA office in South Carolina.

During a two-week trial ending in February for former clinic doctors Michael Jackson, Deborah Bordeaux and Richardo Allerre, patients and former doctors described practices of doctors who issued narcotic prescriptions with little or no examinations of pain patients.

Customers from South Carolina and other states were attracted to the clinic because of the ease with which the drugs could be obtained, according to court testimony.

Allerre, Bordeaux and Jackson each were found guilty of charges including conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances and conspiracy.

They face up to life in prison, Day said, but their sentencings are pending.

Also awaiting sentencing is Dr. Deborah Southerland, who has pleaded guilty. Another indicted, Dr. Benjamin Moore, committed suicide before trial.

The Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Center case may have helped make some doctors in the state more aware of the consequences of irresponsible prescription writing, said Dr. Gene Reeder, professor of pharmacy at the University of South Carolina.

"But people who are out to make money will do it anyway, with disregard for what the laws say," he said.

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