Doctor linked to pill deaths seeks release

Doctor linked to pill deaths seeks release

Worried patients came looking for help at Dr. Howard Diamond's offices in Sherman office on Tuesday. They found the doors locked and the office empty.

“I've been rationing my medicine,” says Mike Tallas, a Sherman resident severely injured on the job more than a decade.

Tallas now walks with a cane. Just walking is painful. He says he’s down to just a few pain pills. He doesn’t know what he will do when he runs out.

“I may have to go on the street and get it,” he says.

Joseph Polidar, another long-time patient, drove from his Denison home to see if he could find someone at the office. Polidar, a truck driver, says Diamond helped him walk again after a botched back surgery left him unable to walk.

“I'm just taking it exactly how he told me to,” he says. “I'm not drugged up, and I can walk and have some kind of life.”

Meanwhile, Diamond was back in court Tuesday as his attorney Pete Schulte continues to try to convince Magistrate Judge Christine Nowak to release him. Diamond, who was arrested one week ago, is accused in the overdose deaths of seven patients. Investigators are looking into 15 more deaths.

Prosecutors are vigorously fighting to keep him behind bars. “The charge carries a presumption that the defendant should be detained,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Rattan.

Schulte told the judge that if he was released, Diamond would be living with his wife and two stepchildren. Over the weekend, his 17-year-old stepdaughter was found murdered in a Dallas creek. Investigators do not believe it’s related to Diamond’s situation.

DEA Agent Susannah Herkert testified she received calls from two different pharmacists that seven prescriptions for controlled substances had been sent on Friday after the doctor's arrest.

“They were concerned that they were still receiving prescriptions,” Herkert said.

Schulte says these were actually not new prescriptions, but rather existing prescriptions sent over through an automated system. He said the system was turned off Friday after the issue was discovered.

Herkert testified there were two ongoing Texas Medical Board investigations into his prescribing practices. One of the investigation involves a pharmacy that raised concerns after a patient filled their prescription for a controlled substance and then returned with another prescription for a higher strength. The patient claimed to have turned their medications into Diamond’s office because they needed a stronger prescription.

The pharmacist called Diamond’s office, but did not feel that the stories of the patient and the Diamond’s office matched, Herkert said.

In the other case, a mother of a patient sent a letter to the board saying that her son had repeatedly overdosed and Diamond kept prescribing him medications.

Herkert said staff member told investigators that a patient’s family member came into the office saying, “You killed my grandmother.”

The agent said a Texas Department of Public Safety investigator looked into Diamond’s prescribing practices in 2015 after a pharmacist complained that a prescription for controlled substances had been stamped with a signature block rather than signed with a signature as required.

The investigator traveled to Paris and did not find Diamond, Herkert said. The investigator was told by Diamond’s staff that he could be found at the Sherman office. When the investigator arrived in Sherman, they were told that he was not there and had to go home to deal with a hot water issue.

Diamond later told the investigator that he would not answer any questions about it without a subpoena, Herkert said.

The DEA agent also testified that insurance companies had repeatedly sent letters raising concerns that he was prescribing too much medications or prescribing medications that should not be prescribed together.

The patients who spoke to WFAA Tuesday said they never had any issues with Diamond. They were surprised by his arrest.

“I never had any problem with him,” Tallas said. “He was a good doctor. He did me real good.” Polidar said he takes prescriptions for ibuprofen and hydrocodone and uses fentanyl patches.

“I think the people should be responsible for what they’re taking,” Polidar said. “You know you can overdose on sleeping pills if you take too much of something.”

Tallas says patients have been told that there’s supposed to be another pain doctor coming over to take over Diamond’s patients.

He’s worried about having withdrawals and ending up in the hospital. He says that he’s heard of other patients who have already ended up at the emergency room suffering from withdrawal.

The judge was clearly aware of the issue.

She told the attorneys that patients have been calling trying to get their medical records. She instructed the attorneys to determine a way to help patients with getting those records.

Tallas hopes that whatever they plan to come up with that they do so in a hurry.

“There's going to be a lot of sick people,” Tallas said. “They need to do something.”

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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