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Local Chelan doctor denies allegations of opioid over-prescribing

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Hydrocodone is a popular prescription semi-synthetic opioid that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone is said to be one of the most common recreational prescription drugs in America. (Stock image by Smartstock)

The Washington State Department of Health, Medical Quality Assurance Committee has filed a statement this month of charges against Michael Travers, MD of Chelan, Washington. The Committee immediately restricted the license of Dr. Travers, alleging that he violated the standard of care in relation to established Washington State pain rules for treatment of patients with non-cancer pain.

The Statement of Charges details the medical treatment of nine patients while they were under Dr. Travers’ care. One patient is reported to have visited Dr. Travers for the first time on April 15, 2013, requesting medication. Below is the description of this one patient case in the Statement of Charges.

Patient F

1.12  On April 15, 2013, Patient F presented to Respondent (Travers) as a new patient “in for meds” as Patient F reported she had lost her medications at the airport. Respondent noted that Patient F had “a long and complex history” which included asthma, PTSD, a stroke, and severe back injuries. Without consulting any one of the eight providers who had prescribed controlled substances to Patient F in the previous 18 months, Respondent assessed Patient F  with long-standing lumbago, PTSD, and asthma. Despite Patient F not having opioids on the list of previous prescriptions that she provided, Respondent wrote Patient F prescriptions for a one month supply of Morphine Sulfate (90 MS ER 60 mg tablets) and 112 Oxycodone HCL 30 mg tablets equaling 540 MED. Patient F was told to make a follow-up appointment for a full one hour new patient visit later.

1.12.1  On April 21, 2013, Patient F died as the result of a drug overdose. Her death certificate stated that the overdose was from a combination of citalopram, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and other opioids.

1.12.2  Respondents’ treatment of Patient F fell below the standard of care in several ways:

  • Respondent failed to adequately questions Patient F’s report of lost medication, and failed to employ risk management tools, such as pain contracts, or opioid risk questionnaires.
  • Respondent failed to conduct a proper examination or conduct any tests in order to form a diagnosis.
  • Respondent prescribed extremely high doses of short acting opiods to Patient F with out consulting previous providers, reviewing any prior medical records, or considering other methods of pain relief.

Michael Travers, MD of Chelan, Washington has been accused of improper opioid dosing for non-cancer patients. His license has been restricted pending a formal hearing.

Allegations summarize, “Respondent [Dr. Travers] has maintained a pattern of dangerous pain management for the treatment of non-cancer pain and a disregard about the serious harm and risk of harm improper opioid dosing poses to patients.”

Dr. Travers has 20 days to respond to the charges and request a hearing. Dr. Travers declined to comment on the allegations but his legal counsel, Steven Lamberson of the Spokane-based law firm, Etter, McMahon, Lamberson, Van Wert & Oreskovich, P.C., stated that Dr. Travers denies all of the allegations.

“Dr. Travers denies and will continue to deny these charges,” Lamberson said. “He will seek an administrative hearing which he has the right to do. These are just charges. There has not been a finding of unprofessional conduct.”

Lamberson explained that the allegations brought against Dr. Travers were not made by patients. “These are complaints that came from other sources. Some of these patients are still at his practice.”

Lamberson continued, “Dr. Travers took these very sick patients, was willing to care for them when other physicians wouldn’t, and he followed the pain regulations set out by the Washington Department of Health.”

Among the regulations that Lamberson referred to are the use of patient pain contracts which are utilized whenever a patient is prescribed long-term narcotic pain relief and the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) which aims to improve patient care and stop prescription drug misuse by collecting all the records for Schedule II, III, IV and V drugs. This information is then made available to medical providers and pharmacists as a tool in patient care.

“Dr. Travers has practiced for over 20 years with no disciplinary history. He really cares about these individuals. They are sick with chronic pain and have other conditions as well,” Lamberson said. “These patients need pain management to be functional and to take care of their family and a recommended treatment for that is narcotics. That does have a negative connotation, but it is a common modality of treatment.”

Lamberson stated that Dr. Travers’ hearing is expected to take place some time within the year. GoLakeChelan.com will continue to follow this story as it develops.

Dr. Travers practices medicine out of his clinic located at 414 East Woodin Avenue in Chelan, Washington. (Photo by Jillian Foster)

(By Jillian Foster)

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