Unable to obtain morphine, Heather Weise, 50, lay balled up in pain at her home in Milford earlier this year. It took nine days to refill her narcotic painkiller and she blamed the clampdown on opioid prescriptions for her woes. “My pain’s up there with cancer,” said Weise, an administrative assistant at the sandwich-chain Subway. “I almost ended up at the ER.”
Weise suffers from adhesive arachnoiditis, an inflammation of membranes surrounding the brain and the spinal cord, for which she was prescribed a daily dose of 120 milligrams of the opioid painkiller morphine. When her prescription ran out in the stipulated 30 days for refills, she had nowhere to turn to for relief.
A state initiative that would have required drug companies and device manufacturers to start reporting their payments to advance practice registered nurses (APRNs) this year has been delayed to 2017. The original APRN legislation, passed in 2014, called for quarterly reporting beginning in July 2015. That law was amended this spring to push back the start date and require only annual reporting, after urging from the pharmaceutical industry, state officials said. The delay comes as an APRN at a pain clinic in Derby, Heather Alfonso, awaits sentencing on charges that she received kickbacks from the drug company Insys Therapeutics in exchange for prescribing a potent painkiller intended for cancer patients. The payments to Alfonso for promoting the drug were not reported publicly under federal rules because APRNs are not included in the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which requires public reporting of drug company payments only to physicians and teaching hospitals.
The medical director of a pain clinic in Derby was reprimanded and fined $7,500 on Tuesday by the state Medical Examining Board for writing prescriptions for patients based on assessments of their appearance or behavior conducted by unlicensed medical assistants. Dr. Mark Thimineur, medical director of the privately run Comprehensive Pain & Headache Treatment Centers, LLC, housed at Griffin Hospital, signed a consent order on June 1 agreeing to the punishment. In the order, he did not contest the findings by the board and the state Department of Public Health. The consent order states that from 2011 to the present, Thimineur failed to meet the standard of care when treating one or more patients for chronic pain. It said he wrote prescriptions for patients based on assessments by unlicensed medical assistants of the patients’ physical appearance, behavior, pain levels or lab test results.
A Derby nurse practitioner whose prolific prescribing of potent narcotics was the subject of a February story by C-HIT has surrendered her state and federal licenses to prescribe controlled substances and is the subject of an “open investigation” by the state health department, officials said Monday. Heather Alfonso, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) at the Comprehensive Pain & Headache Treatment Centers, LLC, in Derby, surrendered her controlled substance registration after a recent probe by the Drug Control Division of the Department of Consumer Protection, a spokeswoman for the department confirmed. “The controlled substance registration of this provider has been turned in,” said the spokeswoman, Claudette Carveth. She said the agency had no further comment. Meanwhile, William Gerrish, a spokesman for the Department of Public Health, said his agency has an ongoing investigation into Alfonso’s APRN license, which is separate from her prescribing registration.