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DEA raids medical offices

Dec. 16, 2010 @ 11:00 PM

BARBOURSVILLE -- A Barboursville doctor is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the West Virginia State Police into prescription drug distribution.

According to an affidavit filed Thursday in the southern district of U.S. District Court, the investigation involves Dr. Philip Fisher, D.O., of Huntington Spine Rehab and Rest Ensured Sleep Technologies, both located in the 3500 block of U.S. 60, Barboursville.

The 43-page affidavit was filed in support of an application for a search warrant, which was executed at both offices and Fisher's personal residence in the 1900 block of Hash Ridge Road, Barboursville, late last week.

Among the items removed from the locations were medical records and files, pre-signed and filled out prescriptions, computers and miscellaneous prescription bottles in the names of various people, according to the search warrant issued to investigators on Dec. 6.

In the affidavit, investigators contend the case could be related to the overdose deaths of at least 14 individuals. The investigators also contend Fisher was "unlawfully obtaining controlled substances from patients and re-distributing them," "possessing with intent to unlawfully utilize controlled substances for his own personal consumption," and "conspiring to misuse his DEA registration by permitting office staff to utilize his DEA registration number to distribute controlled substances to patients."

No charges have been filed against Fisher.

Calls to Huntington Spine Rehab were being answered Thursday afternoon and an employee said as of right now, the office is open. Fisher declined to speak, deferring to his attorney. A phone call to that office was not returned on Thursday.

The affidavit recounts an incident in April 2010 when security personnel at Tri-State Airport discovered two prescription vials containing oxycodone and hydrocodone prescribed to other people in Fisher's luggage, as well as a container "marked with a prescription for Philip Fisher" and a bottle of injectable medication marked "Bupivacaine," a non-controlled local anesthetic, the documents said.

Fisher first told police chief Kenneth Adams he intended to destroy them and then disclosed that he planned to deliver them, the documents said. He later stated the controlled substances were "turned into him," before eventually indicating he planned to take the medications from his office with him to Disneyland in the "event his pain was so bad," following a plane crash he was in, in January, the documents said.

Fisher, a flying enthusiast, made the news in January when a single-engine plane he owned crashed in a field near the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Fisher, his brother Gary and Gary's wife, Marcia, were on board at the time.

Allegations laid out in the affidavit from employees, former employees and colleagues include Fisher leaving pre-signed blank prescription pads while out of state, transportation of controlled substances to Fisher's personal residence and reports of Fisher giving injections of unknown substances to patients in his personal office.

In one overdose case, the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported their findings of a death as a result of combined Fetanyl, Xanax and doxylamine (a sleep aid) intoxication due to an application of a "non-prescribed" transdermal Fentanyl patch.

According to the affidavit, Fisher was often heard referring to controlled substances as "glorified aspirin," and reportedly stated, "Don't blame the match for starting the forest fire," when informed about a patient's non-fatal overdose. Other patients were observed to receive early refills and Suboxone prescriptions were sent to another individual in Mississippi who had not been seen by Fisher for two years, the documents said.

The document also asserts that Fisher may have burned patient files at his residence after "complaining about the cost of incinerating hard copy medical charts," adding that burning them at home would be "more cost-effective."

Doren Burrell, assistant attorney general and appointed counsel to the West Virginia Board of Osteopathy, said the board has been conducting an investigation into Fisher's practice and has received public complaints about the doctor, but could not comment on it.

"I can say the board has a meeting scheduled at 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 23, and the executive director and board chairman have already agreed this will be on the board's agenda," Burrell said. As in the case of Dr. Anita Dawson of Milton, the board could vote to revoke Fisher's license to practice, and his federal permit to prescribe controlled substances could be revoked as well.

"Legally, he does have a license to practice and, as far as I know, a federal permit to prescribe controlled substances. There are procedures to revoke both, but there has to be due process," Burrell said. "He is entitled to notice and the opportunity for a hearing."

Active in Boy Scouts and the Singing Kentucky Kernels Barbershop Chorus, Fisher has served as co-chairman of the five-state Appalachian Pain Foundation. He did his undergraduate and post-graduated work in Iowa. He has worked in Huntington since July 1995, according to published reports following his plane crash. Before coming to Huntington, he worked in Louisville, Ky.



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