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Sapulpa doctor disciplined after two overdose deaths

Roger Kinney, right, consults with part of his legal team during a break in his discipline hearing Thursday. [PHOTO BY MEG WINGERTER, THE OKLAHOMAN]

Roger Kinney, right, consults with part of his legal team during a break in his discipline hearing Thursday. [PHOTO BY MEG WINGERTER, THE OKLAHOMAN]

Oklahoma City — Addictive substances loomed large over the cases before the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision at its meeting Thursday.

The board spent more than two hours hearing and considering the case of Roger Kinney, a Sapulpa physician whose prescribing patterns had also attracted scrutiny in the 1980s.

Board investigators pulled a sample of 10 patient records, after a complaint in late 2015, and found two overdose deaths where Kinney's prescribing of opioids and benzodiazepines, used to treat anxiety, may have played a role. Both types of drugs can slow breathing, increasing the odds of an overdose.

The state also argued Kinney didn't adequately document why he prescribed large doses of potentially dangerous medications to patients.

“Dr. Kinney's practices were at best slipshod, at worst reckless,” said Joe Ashbaker, an assistant attorney general.

Kinney said it wasn't unusual to prescribe both opioids and benzodiazepines to patients before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the practice as risky. He said he has decided to stop prescribing Schedule II drugs, which are those the Drug Enforcement Agency has decided have a high potential for misuse.

“Back before the last CDC recommendations it was very common practice, whether it was right or wrong,” he said.

Elizabeth Scott, Kinney's attorney, argued that the two patients who overdosed had shown signs of mental health problems, and may have died by suicide. She also said Kinney's care and documentation were adequate, and that he would comply with any limitations the board wished to impose.

“He's willing to do anything you ask,” she said.

It wasn't Kinney's first time before the board. He was placed on probation for one year in 1984 for excessive prescribing of controlled substances, and was sentenced to federal prison in 1986 for writing an opioid prescription in exchange for cocaine. He served 26 months in prison, but his license was reinstated afterward in 1989. He told the board cocaine use was common in the 1980s, and that he “fell in with the wrong crowd.”

The board found Kinney had prescribed excessive amounts of controlled substances and failed to keep adequate records in the current case, but elected to let him keep his license. Kinney will have to serve a three-month suspension and take a medical records course. He also won't be allowed to prescribe Schedule II drugs or Suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid addiction.

Thomas Jenkins, a Tonkawa physical therapy assistant, wasn't so fortunate. The board voted to revoke his license after he missed daily check-in phone calls 15 times in the past year.

Jenkins had appeared before the board after he was arrested by the Ponca City Police Department in October 2013 for driving while intoxicated, felony eluding and possession of a firearm while intoxicated. He pleaded guilty and received a two-year deferred sentence, according to board documents. The documents also included allegations he took hydrocodone pills from the homes of clients following a medical procedure in mid-2013.

Ashbaker argued that while missing the calls didn't result in any harm to patients, it raised questions about Jenkins' ability and willingness to follow rules that keep the public safe.

“If you can't do something simple like (checking in), … why would you think he's going to do the complicated and difficult things?” he said.

Jenkins said a board investigator who worked with him told him that maintaining his license should be the most important thing in his day, but he gave priority to his morning prayer and meditation sessions, which sometimes lasted as long as two hours. He said he now considered compliance his top priority.

“My priority was my sobriety and my relationship with my higher power,” he said.

The board also approved an agreement to allow Renae Mayer, a Tulsa physician, to continue to practice.

Mayer allegedly wrote herself 15 prescriptions for Tylenol with codeine under her married name, Renae Bufogle, from January to November 2016. She told investigators she didn't use the pills while working, but they helped her sleep. She said she has fibromyalgia and old injuries from a car accident that still caused her pain.

She also allegedly wrote prescriptions for methylphenidate, an attention-deficit disorder medication for her son. She said her son's doctor had stopped practicing, and she didn't want him to go without his medication.

The board approved an agreement that will require Mayer to pay a $5,000 fine, participate in a program for medical professionals who have had trouble with substances and take a prescribing course.

Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›