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Fort Wayne doctor agrees to suspension of license

Friday, December 7, 2012 - 12:01 am

A Fort Wayne physician who founded Centers for Pain Relief has agreed to the emergency suspension of his license until the Jan. 24 meeting of the state’s medical licensing board, board staff said Thursday.

The Indiana attorney general’s office filed a petition with the licensing board Monday, seeking the temporary suspension of Dr. William Hedrick’s license for “inappropriate and dangerous prescribing practices.”

The petition said, in part, “These concerns include the use of unsafe pharmacological mixes, unusually high pill counts frequently associated with diversion and a preference for medication combinations that are highly valued for diversionary purposes.”

The petition said the prescribing practices are so dangerous that they constitute “a clear and immediate danger to the public health and safety in terms of diversion, abuse and propagation of addiction.” Numerous people have died from multiple-drug toxicity while in his care, the petition said.

The website for Centers for Pain Relief, which included a photo and biography of Hedrick among its staff Monday, lists three locations in Fort Wayne and one in New Haven, as well as ones in Bluffton, Huntington, Columbia City, Auburn, Kendallville and other northeast Indiana cities. Neither Hedrick’s photo nor information about his background remained on the practice’s website Thursday.

The attorney general’s office has the period of this temporary suspension to draft a formal complaint to submit to the board. In licensing cases, the board has the authority to determine what, if any, disciplinary action will be taken.

According to information on its website Monday, the Centers for Pain Relief was founded by Hedrick in 2002, after he left “a large orthopedic group.” It also said Hedrick "had realized in that setting, many back, neck, and pain conditions were misdiagnosed and either treated with one modality when more was needed or too quickly was considered a surgical case."

The website’s biographical sketch on Hedrick said he performed his residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. It said he has served as medical director for Forest Park Hospital in St. Louis and a executive medical director for Northwestern University Medical Center and Loyola University Hospitals prior to moving to Fort Wayne in 2000. He now currently serves as medical director for InQuest Health, the practice’s website said.

Lutheran Health Network officials confirmed that he worked there from 2000-2009, when he served as co-medical director of the network’s Rehabilitation Hospital, 7970 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Since January, the attorney general’s office said, it has filed numerous licensing actions against physicians for overprescribing with several cases involving deaths. The growing number of overprescribing incidents has resulted in the creation of the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force recently launched by Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

Though the state’s attorney general has accused Hedrick of suspicious and even lethal practices in prescribing pain medication, he has his defenders.

Ryan Petty, 36, of Daleville, said he has been treated by Hedrick since shortly after he was seriously injured at work in 2008.

“I think he’s getting a bad rap,” Petty said. “He’s helped a lot of people.”

Petty said he was injured when shelves holding 600 pounds of supplies fell on him while he was cleaning a walk-in freezer. Besides those injuries, he said he also suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. At its worst, the pain has kept him bedridden, he said.

He credited Hedrick with a methodical approach through which he reduced the amount of some painkillers prescribed by other physicians and gradually, over the course of 16 months, found a plateau of pain management that dramatically improved his quality of life. Even though Petty said he remains on Social Security disability, he is able to be more active and comfortable now.

“Dr. Hedrick has done a great job of helping me control the pain,” he said. Petty said he’s grateful that Centers for Pain Relief will be able to continue seeing him for appointments.

A manager at Centers for Pain Relief did not return a phone call Thursday seeking verification that the practice will be able to continue handling its patient load without Hedrick involved.