Dr. Paul Volkman specialized in mitigation of pain. Did he ever. From 2003 to 2005 he was the most prolific prescriber of Oxycodone and related opioids in the entire country. He was recently sentenced to four life terms in prison for the deaths of four patients. There were eight additional overdose deaths associated with his practice, but these lacked enough evidence to prosecute. Patients came from hundreds of miles away and were charged $125 to $200 in cash for visits to see a doctor. Volkman's distribution system had a devastating effect on southern Ohio, where he based his practice.
Prosecutors said Volkman rarely, if ever, counseled patients on alternate treatments for pain, such as physical therapy, surgery or addiction counseling. Volkman denied the allegations and said he always acted in good faith. A month before his conviction, he dismissed his attorneys and defended himself. His skills as an attorney appear to be totally in sync with his skills as a physician.
Street Creds and Credentials
Volkman went to work at the Tri-State Health Care and Pain Management clinic in southern Ohio in 2003. The clinic was operated by Denise Huffman and her daughter Alice Huffman Ball, who have pled guilty to one count of operating Tri-State as a business whose primary goal was the illegal distribution of prescription drugs. Denise has been sentenced to 12 plus years in prison; her daughter is serving five years. Both testified against Volkman, as did a horde of witnesses including pharmacists, police investigators, clinic employees and patients who received pills from Volkman.
What is striking about this case is the harsh sentencing. Four life terms is the kind of sentence you rarely see applied to white collar criminals; Volkman was sentenced as if he were a run-of-the-mill (pun intended) drug kingpin, which, minor differences aside, he was.
Through the wonders of the internet, we learn that Volkman had a three star rating from his patients and earned his medical degree at the University of Chicago Pritzger School of Medicine in 1974, followed by a residency at Duke Medical Center. After that, well, something went terribly wrong. Nonetheless, with his impressive creds, he's sure to be a very popular man for the rest of his highly circumscribed life.