Health commissioner: Too many pain patients, not enough doctors

Michael A. Cozzi

FORT WAYNE- Hundreds of people are without a pain doctor after the state medical licensing board voted to suspend Dr. Michael Cozzi’s medical license. The board banned Dr. Cozzi from practicing medicine for 90 days, as investigators look into allegations that he over-prescribed controlled substances to his patients.

Dr. Micheal Cozzi’s office has temporarily closed it’s doors and pharmacies cannot fill his prescriptions. Now people in need of care for chronic pain are trying to figure out what to do next.

“People are wanting to know what to do and I don’t know what to tell them to do,” said Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan. “The emergency rooms can’t prescribe like that. There are prescribing guidelines in place and those were unsafe practices. No one can continue those without being in danger of having their license suspended.”

In a press release, the attorney general’s office said Cozzi, the owner of FW Interventional Pain Management in Fort Wayne, prescribed more controlled substances than any other prescriber in Indiana between January 2014 and February 2016, including some 2 million doses of Oxycodone and 1.2 million doses of hydrocodone.

From January to February 2016, he prescribed controlled substances to about 1,700 patients, and saw 90-100 patients a day.

Investigators also interviewed several staff members at Cozzi’s office who claimed he was verbally abusive and sexually harassed patients and employees. Some of Cozzi’s former female patients reported that Cozzi touched them inappropriately and asked them to perform sexual acts in his office.

In the days following Dr. Cozzi’s arrest, Dr. McMahan said the medical, mental health and law enforcement community met to develop a strategy to minimize this negative impact for patients.

Dr. McMahan said patients should visit a primary care physician who could refer them to a pain doctor. She said it’s likely that new doctor would make changes, which could be a difficult transition for some patients.

“He was suspended for unsafe prescribing,” she said. “My guess is they’re going to find themselves in a situation where other doctors do not think the medication regimen that they’re on is appropriate.”

The Health commission is working to provide resources for doctors dealing with patients suffering from addiction.

“Just some recommendations, things to consider, and a reminder of what the rules are,” said Dr. McMahan. “More importantly, is a listing of the resources available to people who want to address addiction. If you don’t see a lot of these patients, it’s a lot of work to go look at see what the best practice is for right now.”

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