Could docs who prescribed drugs to Baumgartner be investigated?

Could doctors who prescribed drugs to ex-Judge Baumgartner be investigated?

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By DON DARE
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Tennessee Bureau of Investigation records show ex-Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner received thousands of powerful narcotics from a variety of doctors and even from the streets.

It begs the question, could some of the doctors he visited to relieve pain be liable for writing so many prescriptions?

Baumgartner said he "loved his opiates," according to the TBI file on him. Those drugs included hydrocodone, oxycodone, OxyContin and roxicodone, among others.

For a while, the TBI said Baumgartner received his drugs from his former girlfriend and drug court graduate Deena Castleman, sometimes going to her home at a trailer park in Powell.

However, Kroger pharmacy records released by the TBI show that he received over 2,000 pills from nine physicians from 2006-2010 in alleged doctor shopping.

"The doctors are not aware these patients are receiving care from other doctors, and that is the intention of these patients is to trick these doctors into thinking they're only receiving medication from one location," said Heather Sutton, with the Metropolitan Drug Commission.

"Often that medication is a prescription pain medication," she added.

By comparison, people who go to a pill mill are looking for "a pain management clinic that is run illegitimately," Sutton said.

According to the TBI findings, Baumgartner visited Knoxville gastroenterologist Dr. Dean Conley in January 2007.

Dr. Conley told the TBI he became concerned and began "to wean the judge off" the drugs. He also told Baumgartner he looked "ghastly" and confronted him about it. Baumgartner said he was an addict.

In June 2008, Conley dropped Baumgartner as a patient.

Dr. Rob Page, president of the Knoxville Academy of Medicine, addressed what ethically is a physician's obligation if he suspects a patient is abusing prescription drugs.

"You first and foremost have to confront the patient," Dr. Page said. "And there is a certain ethical obligation that exists to contact the authorities, to contact the police and other authorities if you think there is a continuing behavior, something that is illegal or is being done in abusing prescription drugs."

When asked if some of the nine physicians who prescribed so many pain pills to Baumgartner could be scrutinized by authorities, Dr. Page said, in short, yes.

Neither local nor state investigators who spoke with 6 News Friday could say whether any of the doctors are being investigated.

6 News checked the doctors' records with the Tennessee Department of Health. Each has a clean slate.

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