A clinic with locations in Central and Eastern Kentucky improperly prescribed thousands of doses of a drug designed to help treat people addicted to opioids such as heroin and pain pills, Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office charged in a lawsuit filed Friday.
The lawsuit alleges that The Recovery Center, which is based in Breathitt County, and four of its owners defrauded the Medicaid program by falsely claiming it offered patients required medical advice and individual treatment along with prescriptions for Suboxone.
The lawsuit seeks to recover money from The Recovery Center received under the Medicaid program, as well as fines and other financial damages.
Beshear said his office recently raided four clinics operated by the business and that a criminal investigation is underway.
Clinics can qualify for Medicaid payments for providing medication-assisted addiction treatment. Suboxone, which combats cravings for opioid drugs, is widely used in such treatment.
However, clinics are supposed to provide individual treatment that includes steps to reduce a patients’ use of Suboxone over time, Beshear said in a news release.
The Recovery Center was billing Medicaid for spending 15 minutes with each patient, but that was “mathematically impossible” given the number of doctors in its clinics, Beshear said.
For example, the lawsuit alleges that on one day in 2017 at the Recovery Center clinic in Jackson, the owners wrote 136 Suboxone prescriptions, all for the same dosage amount.
The Recovery Center has clinics in Jackson, Hazard, London, Paintsville, Frankfort, Richmond and Mount Sterling, Beshear said.
Beshear called the clinics “pill mills.”
“The owners are strictly operating for profits and couldn’t care less about the health and safety of our families and neighbors who are struggling with addiction,” Beshear said in a news release.
Beshear’s office filed the lawsuit in Breathitt County against the business and the owners — Dr. George Burnette, Jerry Campbell, Justin Neace and Robert Jack Duncan.
No one returned a telephone message left at a number listed for the clinic in Jackson.
The lawsuit charges that The Recovery Center billed Medicaid for services that were not provided or were not needed. It required unnecessary weekly appointments and drug screens, and unneeded prescriptions led to the state “being flooded with thousands of dangerous and addictive doses of Suboxone that were subject to abuse and diversion.”
Beshear said his office has been reviewing a trend in the abuse of Buprenorphine medications — Suboxone is one — by clinics that prescribe them without the necessary counseling and treatment. There is a black market for the drug.
“Now we are seeing a treatment for addiction being the cause of addiction due to the reckless behavior of clinic owners like those who run The Recovery Center,” Beshear said in the release.