HOPE Clinic pharmacies were sued by a mother who believes doctors at the clinic over-prescribed opioid medications to her son leading to his death. In a lawsuit, Inez Lewis said her son, Timothy Jason Lewis, who died on May 4, 2017, after overdosing, was introduced to drugs through negligent doctors’ prescriptions.
Inez claims that doctors at HOPE Clinic filled prescriptions despite suspicious prescription activity that violated the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act. The defendants in the lawsuit include; Cross Lanes Family Pharmacy Inc., four employees of HOPE Clinic, and Poca Valu-Rite Inc.
One of HOPE Clinic owners, James Blume, was among 12 people indicted in February for purportedly operating a pill mill at the clinic. Inez Lewis filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court on June 29 on behalf of her son’s estate. This filing came four months after physicians, owners, employees, and managers at HOPE Clinic were accused of federal charges citing distribution of illegal substances.
The HOPE clinic team were accused of distributing Schedule II controlled substances, including oxycodone, outside their legal and intended medical purposes from November 2010 to June 2015. Their trials were rescheduled to November 5 from the original April dates presided at the Beckley courthouse by U.S. District Judge, Irene Berger.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration rates all drugs on a five-tier system. Schedule I drugs have no medicinal use and are highly addictive while Schedule V drugs have low addiction capabilities, and commonly used in the treatment of common ailments. Inez Lewis said that the physicians started prescribing her son methadone and oxycodone in 2014.
Both drugs are strong painkillers but are highly addictive and quite lethal as stated in Inez’s lawsuit. None of these drugs were medically necessary for Timothy Lewis, and they contributed to his opioid addiction whose overdose ultimately caused his death. No defendant in the lawsuit reported the “suspicious prescription activity” to any federal regulatory agencies.
Timothy Houston of Brown Houston PLLC in Charleston represented Inez Lewis. The case was assigned to Judge Duke Bloom. The clinic had locations in Wytheville, Virginia and Beckley, Charleston, and Beaver in West Virginia. In February 2015, HOPE Clinic in Charleston closed down after West Virginia Office of Health Facility Licensure officers decided the clinic was risking patient lives.
Clinic’s branch in Beaver was also shut down with similar reports of narcotic auditors. The 12 defendants are faced with multiple charges including maintaining drug-involved premises, conspiracy to commit money laundering, distribution of controlled substances, and conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
All defendants pleaded not guilty to these charges. Dr. John Pellegrini, a doctor at the Beckley HOPE Clinic is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. He pleaded guilty in April and faces a jail term of up to 20 years in federal prison.
According to Federal prosecutors, HOPE Clinics operated in a cash-based business set up. They never accepted insurance for compensation for medications and services offered. According to the indictment, the clinic received at least $21 million from patients in cash payments from 2012 to 2015. It is alleged that clinic owners contracted physician’s services who knew nothing about pain management.
The physicians also conducted incomplete, cursory, or no thorough medical examinations of patients on many occasions. Inez Lewis, through the lawsuit, seeks unstipulated compensation for damages. She wants compensation for emotional distress, expenses arising from her son’s care and treatment, mental anguish, funeral expenses, and the loss of her son’s advice, guidance, comfort, and companionship.
Inez also seeks court costs and attorney’s fees together with all punitive damages against the defendants.