05/12/04 — Doctor charged with obtaining, dispersing large amounts of painkiller

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Doctor charged with obtaining, dispersing large amounts of painkiller

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on May 12, 2004 2:05 PM

A Wayne County doctor has been charged by the North Carolina Medical Board with obtaining and dispensing large amounts of an opiate pain reliever in violation of his medical license.

The state board scheduled a hearing on charges against Dr. Karlus Cornelius Artis, who was licensed in 1991 and has his own practice, Physicians Theracare, in Goldsboro.

According to the charges, Artis obtained and dispensed large quantities of hydrocodone bitartrate from his private practice between 2000 and 2003. Hydrocodone is an opiate prescribed for pain relief.

In his response to the board, Artis says the allegations are "totally erroneous." He also responded, the "information that I read on the allegation is appalling and never occurred."

The state board said Artis didn't have a permit from the state pharmacy board to dispense the drug from his practice.

Investigators from the state board said that Artis initially denied that he dispensed the medicine. "Instead, he informed the Board that any controlled substances tracked to him were most likely from when he worked at another practice, Doctors Urgent Care," the board's report said.

The document said that the doctor changed his story when the investigators told him that they could get documentation from pharmaceutical companies showing who ordered the medicine and where it was shipped. "Dr. Artis then produced a sheet of paper that appeared to be a rudimentary log sheet for the dispensing of controlled substances from his practice between Jan. 2000 and Oct. 2001, which he had previously denied."

Medical board members received documentation from pharmaceutical companies revealing a large amount of medicine logged against Dr. Artis' Drug Enforcement Agency registration number.

According to the charges, the log sheet did not accurately account for the inventory of medicine that Artis received as documented by the pharmaceutical companies.

Investigators reported that in a later interview with board staff, Artis admitted that he had given the medicine to patients between October 2000 and January 2002.

He also admitted that he dispensed the drug without the proper permit from the Board of Pharmacy, according to the charges. The document states that he further admitted that he failed to document adequately, in violation of state and federal laws, the handling and distribution of controlled substances from his office.

According to the report, Artis also admitted that at times he repackaged the drug from a stock bottle into small plastic bags and he would write labeling information and instructions on them.

Artis' denial, said the board, constituted "unprofessional conduct" and that grounds existed under state law for the board to annul, suspend, revoke or limit his license to practice medicine and surgery.

Artis said that he never denied that he had dispensed the drug from his practice. "From 1994 until I became Board Eligible in pain management in 2000, I had always had a dispense license from the Board of Pharmacy," he wrote.

When he opened his own practice, he considered dispensing from his office but wasn't sure if it would prosper. He said that he discussed that with the investigator, so "the allegation of denial is shocking."

He also responded that any medication not documented was probably an order from a previous partner who was addicted to opiates. Artis said he fired the partner and the ex-partner was later placed in a drug treatment facility.

The hearing is scheduled for 8 a.m. June 16 before the North Carolina Medical Board.

Artis is also being sued by a Wayne County couple for medical malpractice.

Timothy E. Hatcher and his wife filed the suit against Artis and his physician's assistant. Hatcher contends that he was treated between January and November 2001 for stomach problems following surgery.

Despite several changes in his medication, Hatcher alleges that he got no relief and went to a specialist.

The specialist then recommended surgery by another doctor, who found colon cancer. Hatcher was treated in Durham for the disease.