Dr. Wayne Longmore of the Woodstock Walk-In Doctor’s Office was arrested last Wednesday, March 21, on charges of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance.
According to the federal criminal complaint signed by FBI Special Agent Julie Kelly Mounce before U.S. District Court, Northern District, in Albany on March 20, “The evidence obtained in this investigation indicates that from at least March 2009 to the present, Longmore has prescribed large quantities of the highly addictive prescription controlled substance hydrocodone (both in brand name and generic form), among other drugs, without a legitimate medical purpose…outside ‘the usual course of professional practice.’”
The news, released by the FBI, almost immediately spawned an outpouring of letter-writing by Woodstock patients on behalf of the doctor, whose practice was closed down within a year of opening nine years ago following a much-publicized case that eventually saw him admitting to, and being treated for, bipolar disorder.
In an interview Monday, March 26, Longmore gave his side of things.
“I’m innocent of these charges,” he said. “I do not prescribe controlled substances without a reason. Tomorrow [Tuesday, March 27] I’m voluntarily giving up my license to practice medicine for the duration of these proceedings,” Longmore said in a subdued manner. “The prescriptions I’ve written were entirely within medical purposes. I don’t prescribe to people who just walk in and want it. I have a busy practice. I’ve done the best I can and I believe I’ll be exonerated once the situation is investigated properly.
Longmore, who just a month ago turned down a request to do an update on his practice seven years after his earlier troubles subsided, added that he was “fully cooperating with the investigation.”
On Tuesday, March 27, Longmore appeared before Judge Randolph F. Treece of U.S. District Court in Albany, represented by attorney David Gruenberg of Troy, regarding the criminal charges against him. According to Gruenberg, his client’s case was proceeding along two fronts simultaneously.
On the one hand, he was dealing with the federal charges, which the attorney described as being “very much at the beginning of a long process. We’re just starting to look at the government’s evidence, and gauging their allegations…there’s a lot of material and nothing’s set yet.”
On the other front, Gruenberg added, “The state Department of Health (DOH) has been advised of the allegations and Dr. Longmore has retained separate counsel for that.”
The most unfavorable outcome of any DOH action would be that Longmore could have his license to practice medicine revoked forever. The worst case scenario regarding federal charges involves substantial jail time, up to 14 years in some cases, as well as major fines into the upper five figure range.
According to the FBI complaint, it is Agent Mounce’s belief that Longmore was among the top five writers of prescriptions of hydrocodone (also known as Vicodin) in the greater Capital region, with him having written approximately 9,940 prescriptions between Dec. 15, 2010, and Jan. 17, 2012, with 4,520 of those for patients under 35.
Evidence provided by Mounce includes testimony from area pharmacists about the incidence of the Woodstock Walk-In Doctor’s prescriptions, use of undercover agents as patients seeking prescriptions, and the use of a video surveillance camera on a utility pole outside Longmore’s office that showed him averaging, in Mounce’s description, 72 patients per day over recent months.
“Throughout the investigation of Longmore, multiple pharmacies contacted the FBI and DEA regarding his unusual and suspicious prescribing practices,” Mounce writes of actions that started in March, 2009, after it was uncovered that the Woodstock doctor was among the top prescription writers of Vicodin in the region. “From conversations with these pharmacists, I learned that some of Longmore’s patients travel a long distance to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances from him. One pharmacist reported that Longmore almost always writes prescriptions for 45 hydrocodone tablets at a time, which is approximately a one-week supply.”
Undercover agents noted the speed with which Longmore would examine them, often in under a minute, with blood pressure test and examination included.
According to a local law enforcement source who talked with Ulster Publishing, speaking on the condition of anonymity because his agency is not directly involved in the investigation, Longmore has been on cops’ radar for years as a major source of narcotic pain pills circulating on Ulster County’s black market.
“He’s the one who came across my desk the most as far as abusing his ability to write prescriptions,” said the source.
The source described a thriving market for pain pills, which can fetch as much as $30 apiece for the most powerful doses. Pill dealers with health insurance can reap profits by obtaining hundreds of dollars worth of pills for the price of an office visit and a small co-pay at the pharmacy, then selling the drugs on the street at black market prices. Longmore, the source added, frequently came up in conversations with confidential informants.
“Snitches talk,” said the source. “They’d tell us, this is the guy to go to. You basically just point to where your elbow hurts on a chart and you get a scrip.”
The source added that his agency had traded information on Longmore with the DEA’s pill diversion division. But, he said, local police never took action against the clinic because of the difficulty in building a solid case against a doctor who’s legally vested with the power to write.
“The fact is, that’s his job and we’re not doctors,” said the source. “It’s a hard line. But we all knew about it.”
A variety of ailments
Longmore, whose office at 104 Mill Hill Road became a flurry of activity for those in the greater community without insurance, built his practice based on a vision for community triage care on a cash basis, with a sliding scale of payment for those with less means. He talked much, both before his troubles with the Medical Society — which peaked when he surrendered his license to practice medicine for a year and three months in 2004 to avoid investigation by the state Department of Health — about using his considerable experience in emergency rooms in a small-town situation.
The doctor admitted that he had written 6,900 prescriptions for hydrocodone in the time period of the investigation, “but I wrote another 20,000 prescriptions for antibiotics and other medications.” He talked about how he would prescribe pain medication for a variety of ailments.
“A common thing would be low back pain, sciatica, migraine headaches, orthopedic operations, hernia…they don’t give enough medication at emergency room if they have a fracture, for example. They advise you to go to your primary care physician,” he said. “I see children, adults, all kinds of patients… Many of my patients do not have health insurance and can’t afford to see doctors on a regular basis…I do not sell prescriptions.”
Longmore said he had no idea he was under surveillance.
“For the last two years no, totally unaware,” he said. “I was out of work for two years, then under a Committee for Physicians Health for five years. That was completed in 2010. The only requirement I’ve had is to see a psychiatrist while I practice in New York State. And I do see a psychiatrist.”
He said that on an average day, he would see between 25 and 45 patients, but “nowhere near 72.” He said he charges those who come to see him “on a sliding scale anywhere from $10 to $90 — the majority is $60. But I charge people what they can afford. I do not accept insurance, I’m not a Medicaid provider, or Medicare. I’ll give people a receipt they can submit to their insurance companies.”
Finally, he added that “I want to keep my office open. I’m looking for Doctors, nurses, Physician’s Assistants, or Nurse Practitioners to staff the office. I won’t be practicing. But there’s a tremendous need for a walk in clinic to deal with all kinds of things, allergies, asthma, hypertension, diabetes, cancer…all kind of non-pain related issues.”
Last decade, when he was forced to close down because of his own symptoms of bi-polar disease, Longmore put out a similar request. But with no takers.
“I have an X-ray machine so I do X-rays in the office. I have an EKG machine to do those. And I’m an emergency physician so I do minor surgery, including suturing of lacerations, treatment of burns and excisions of benign skin lesions,” he said. “I also refer patients I can’t take care of to local physicians who specialize in orthopedics, general surgery, infectious diseases, pediatrics, psychology, etc. I think I’ve treated at least half the residents in the Woodstock area in the last ten years.”
He asked that medical professionals interested in working in the Walk-In Clinic call him.
At his attorney’s request, however, we were asked not to publish that number.
To reach Dr. Wayne Longmore, then, try his attorney, David Gruenberg, at 518-274-7252.++
Jesse J. Smith and Brian Hollander contributed to this report.