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Wednesday, December 14,2011

Doctor ordered

Shannon Wiggins pleads no contest to neglect and incompetence charges, keeps her license with fine and probation

by Andy Balaskovitz

A Lansing doctor has received a $5,000 fine and two years’ probation but will keep her osteopathic medicine license following a complaint by the state Attorney General’s Office that she overprescribed pharmaceuticals.

Shannon Wiggins, who owns and operates two offices in Lansing, pleaded no contest Nov. 7 to eight separate counts of neglect and incompetence for violating parts of the state’s Public Health Code. Eight other charges that Wiggins’ conduct “constitutes selling, prescribing, giving away or administering drugs for other than lawful diagnostic or therapeutic purposes” were dismissed by the state Board of Osteopathic Medicine & Surgery.

The state Attorney General’s Office filed a complaint against Wiggins Feb. 28 on behalf of the state Department of Community Health’s Bureau of Health Professions. It listed eight counts of instances when Wiggins allegedly overprescribed pain medication to patients, ranging from February 2006 to May 2010. One instance involved an accidental overdose. 

A consent order was agreed upon Nov. 7 in which Wiggins pleaded no contest to the incompetence and neglect charges. The order defines incompetence as a “departure from, or failure to conform to, minimal standards of acceptable and prevailing practice for a health profession whether or not actual injury to an individual occurs.”

Some of the medications Wiggins was alleged to have overprescribed are Vicodin, Xanax, Fentanyl, Valium, Oxycontin, hydrocodone and methadone.

As a result, Wiggins was given two years’ probation and a $5,000 fine last month. She will have to meet with an  Osteopathic Medicine & Surgery board member every three months and patient records will be reviewed as part of her probation. 

By pleading no contest, Wiggins “does not admit the truth of the allegations but agrees that the Disciplinary Subcommittee may treat the allegations as true for resolution of the Complaint and may enter an order treating the allegations as true,” the consent order says.

Wiggins and her attorney, Sal Gani, could not be reached for comment. 

In her initial response to the allegations, Wiggins denied all of the charges. Wiggins’ response, dated April 28, also says that she can provide documentation that she “rejects, cancels and terminates treatment of many patients that appear to request drugs without having the medical need. … (Wiggins) can substantiate by documentation that she has discharged patients for any suspicion that they are selling dispensed drugs, seeing multiple doctors, drug seeking behavior, misuse of narcotics, abusing narcotics, use of street drugs, verbal abuse of staff for refusal, exhibit erratic behavior, abuse of emergency room treatment, witnessing patients come in and complain about excessive pain demanding refills and then viewing the patient walking outside the office without pain or use of the walking aid, excessive claim of lost drugs and many other reasons.”

The board dismissed the charges of selling, prescribing, giving away or administering drugs for other than lawful diagnostic or therapeutic purposes for five reasons, the order says: Wiggins has had no disciplinary action taken against her license since it was issued in 2000; Wiggins “cooperated fully with the resolution of this matter”; at a June 7 compliance conference, Wiggins showed the board “sufficient justification for the medications she prescribed to her patients at issue, and demonstrated a basic understanding of the proper procedures for prescribing controlled substances to patients with chronic non-malignant pain”; Wiggins attributed the allegations against her to “over extending herself” and since the complaint was filed, she “stopped providing medical care to residents of three nursing homes and rendering on-call coverage at a local hospital”; and since the complaint was issued she “developed a new pain management contract with her patients” and “implemented new practice rules for her clinic staff physicians and physicians assistants.”

City Pulse reported on the allegations in May as Wiggins was trying to open a clinic in Meridian Township partly for medical marijuana referrals. A conspicuous sign that hung outside of her business East Michigan Family Care, 2310 E. Michigan Ave., displaying the medical marijuana recommendation services is gone. The website for the business, Alternative Choice Clinics, has been taken down.

Wiggins sought to open an office partly for medical marijuana recommendations at 4133 Okemos Road last spring, but was met with opposition because opponents feared it would be too close to a school. A zoning discrepancy prevented Wiggins from opening immediately, but a Meridian Township planning official said in May that Wiggins could have applied for a special permit in the interim to open. The township Board of Trustees voted to place the property rezoning on August 2012 ballots after a successful petition drive prevented the board’s initial affirmative vote on the rezoning. It is unclear if Wiggins still intends to open a third office there.

The most serious allegation against Wiggins in the complaint says she treated a 45-year-old woman for chronic back and ankle pain between April 27 and Oct. 19, 2007, with Xanax, Vicodin, Percocet, Fentanyl and Valium. The patient was involved in motor vehicle accidents in 1979 and 1982, the complaint says. However, an orthopedic surgeon wrote to Wiggins a month after Wiggins started treating the patient that said “pain behavior is way out of proportion to her time from injury,” the complaint says. On Oct. 19, 2007, the patient was found dead from what former Ingham County Deputy Medical Examiner Dennis Jurczak identified as “an accidental fatal mixed drug intoxication of fentanyl, alprazolam, carisoprodal, hydrocodone and acetaminophen,” according to the complaint.

The complaint alleged Wiggins did not adequately monitor for “drug dependency or diversion, implement a pain management program, nor did she verify the efficacy of the long-term use of controlled substances.”

Wiggins faced seven other counts of negligence, incompetence and administering drugs for unlawful purposes as part of the complaint. All the counts allege Wiggins’ documentation of treatment did not justify the long-term prescribing of controlled substances.

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