Donnelly Presses VA and DEA for Update on Investigation Into Prescribing Practices at Marion Medical Center

Follows up on Senator’s previous push for updated prescribing practices and training for prescribers to help Marion VAMC, Indiana address opioid crisis

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly pressed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for an update on their investigation into the suspicious prescribing practices at the Marion Indiana Veterans Affair Medical Center (VAMC). In a letter sent to Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and Acting Administrator of the DEA Chuck Rosenberg, Donnelly outlined a series of follow-up questions asking how the federal agencies are working together to complete the investigation, improve the VA’s current prescribing practices at Marion and increase training for prescribers to help Indiana address its opioid crisis.

Donnelly wrote, in part, “I am writing to ask you for an update on the status of the investigation and to ensure that both your agencies are cooperating fully with one another to get all the facts and take whatever measures may be necessary to provide Hoosier veterans with the quality health care they deserve….It is my understanding that the investigation into this troubling activity at the Marion VAMC is still ongoing…I urge you to make every appropriate effort to bring this matter to a responsible conclusion and continue working to restore confidence of VA patients and their loved one in the care provided at the Marion VAMC.”

In a letter Donnelly sent in December 2015 to former VA Secretary Robert McDonald, following the Drug Enforcement Administration’s inspection of the Marion VAMC, he asked a number of questions about the VA’s efforts related to prescribing opioids to veterans. Among Donnelly’s questions, he asked about how the VA ensures patient safety and whether complaints have been received about opioid prescribing practices in Indiana, and if so what actions have been taken to address them.

Full text of Donnelly’s letter follows. To see the signed letter, click here.

June 9, 2017

The Honorable David J. Shulkin

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 

The Honorable Chuck Rosenberg

Acting Administrator

Drug Enforcement Administration

Dear Secretary Shulkin and Administrator Rosenberg:

In December 2015, public reports emerged that federal investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were inspecting the Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Indiana in relation to suspicious opioid prescription activity at the hospital. I am writing to ask you for an update on the status of that investigation and to ensure that both your agencies are cooperating fully with one another to get all the facts and take whatever measures may be necessary to provide Hoosier veterans with the quality health care they deserve. 

Reports on past opioid prescription rates at the Marion VAMC are cause for ample concern. According to publicly available information, the Marion VAMC purchased significantly larger quantities of opioids than any other medical facility in the area. Despite serving 10,000 fewer patients than the nearby VA health care center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Marion facility reportedly purchased significantly larger quantities of these highly addictive drugs. For example, in 2014 alone, Marion is reported to have purchased nearly twice as much hydrocodone as the Fort Wayne VAMC.

It is my understanding that the investigation into this troubling activity at the Marion VAMC is still ongoing. I urge you to make every appropriate effort to bring this matter to a responsible conclusion and continue working to restore confidence of VA patients and their loved ones in the care provided at the Marion VAMC. Accordingly, I ask that you respond to the following questions:

1)     What is the status of the investigation into opioid prescribing practices at the Marion VAMC?

2)     Do you have any concerns about the progress of the investigation or factors that will impede or unnecessarily delay successful completion of the investigation?

3)     What actions have been taken at the Marion VAMC to protect against potential improper prescribing practices involving opioids?

4)     Have you identified any employees who engaged in misconduct in relation to opioid prescribing practices at the Marion VAMC, and if so, what action has been taken to address those findings?

5)     What efforts have been put in place to ensure patients who may have been overprescribed opioids are receiving appropriate care and support going forward?

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response. 

Sincerely,

Joe Donnelly

United States Senator

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