Indiana doctors mull safety options after physician death

The opioid problem continues to affect many communities across the country, including right here in central Indiana.(WISH photo)

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Pain specialists in northwest Indiana are considering how to protect themselves amid the nation’s growing opioid abuse epidemic following the July death of a doctor who was allegedly killed by a man after not prescribing opioids to the man’s wife.

Munster pain specialist Dr. Shaun Kondamuri told the Northwest Indiana Times that pain doctors are facing a heightened chance of encountering unhappy patients because doctors are being encouraged to prescribe fewer painkillers.

“We treat people at the risk of being physically abused or even killed,” said Kondamuri.

A new Indiana law limits new painkiller prescriptions to seven days. Physicians in the state are also encouraged to administer drug tests to painkiller patients to make sure they’re properly using the medications.

“We face the wrath of the legitimate patient who is denied medication he truly needs,” said Kondamuri.

Kondamuri said primary care doctors are more frequently referring pain patients to specialists.

“The focus on slowing the tide of opioid abuse has left many doctors reluctant to prescribe opioid medications at all,” Kondamuri said. “We’re fearful we’re doing something wrong.”

Kondamuri said it’s common for pain doctors to encounter aggressive patients regularly. But he said can receive training of how to handle aggressive situations, flag problem patients, ban firearms in the office and more.

“Everyone should be free and safe from violence in the workplace,” he said.

Prosecutors said Dr. Todd Graham, 56, was shot on July 27 after declining to prescribe highly addictive opioids to the wife of Michael Jarvis, 48.