One of the largest pain management groups in the Southeast is closing multiple clinics amid worsening financial troubles along with a federal criminal investigation that targeted its former leader.
This week, Tennessee-based Comprehensive Pain Specialists advised patients and employees about clinic closures, leaving patients scrambling to locate new doctors willing to prescribe them opioids, based on a study on WSMV television.
Based in the Nashville area, CPS opened in 2005 and quickly grew right into a powerhouse, that has treated as much as 48,000 pain patients a month, at a lot more than 50 clinics in Tennessee along with other states.
CPS didn't react to numerous requests for comment.
The doctor-owned company has endured a series of recent setbacks, including earlier clinic closures, pending lawsuits over alleged debts and also the criminal case against former CEO John Davis.
In April, a federal grand jury in Tennessee indicted Davis on criminal kickback charges. He has pleaded not liable. CPS also offers faced nearly twelve civil lawsuits from contractors alleging unpaid debts, including suits through two of its former doctors. A Justice Department official said the closure was not associated with the criminal case against Davis.
The shutdown of the clinics comes amid growing backlash against the use of opioids for the treatment of chronic pain. The opioid crisis has cost the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion since 2001, estimates Altarum, a fiscal research firm. Since 1999, a minimum of 200,000 individuals have died nationwide from overdoses, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According towards the company's website, CPS now operates 40 clinics in eight states: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee. Half have been in Tennessee. The Tennessean reported Tuesday that all 21 clinics in the state would be closing by the end of the month.
CPS was the topic of a November 2021 investigation by Kaiser Health News that scrutinized its Medicare billings for urine drug testing. Medicare paid the company a minimum of $11 million for urine screenings and related tests in 2021, when five of CPS' medical professionals stood one of the nation's top such Medicare billers. One nurse practitioner at a CPS clinic in Cleveland, Tenn., generated $1.1 million in urine-test billing that year, based on Medicare records analyzed by KHN.
Peter Kroll, an anesthesiologist and one of CPS' founders, said at the time that the tests were justified to monitor patients against risks of addiction or reduce chances the pills may be sold on the underground community. Kroll, who is the business's current CEO and medical director, billed Medicare $1.8 million for urine tests in 2021, agency records showed.
Kroll took charge of the business when Davis left the organization abruptly last summer. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors charged Davis with accepting a lot more than $750,000 in illegal bribes and kickbacks inside a scheme that billed Medicare $4.6 million for durable medical equipment.
“As CEO, Davis oversaw the substantial expansion of CPS, recruiting new physicians and clinics to become listed on CPS, as well as directing various facets of the business's overall management of patients,” prosecutors wrote in a May court filing.
Davis has pleaded not liable. The U.S. attorney's office has stated in court filings that CPS and its employees are “victims” in the event.
The company has been hit with civil suits. Anesthesiologist Donald E. Jones sued the company in May 2021, alleging it failed to honor his employment contracts.
Jones said he joined the firm in 2012 to staff three Tennessee clinics at a earnings of $30,000 per month plus a percentage of fees from laboratory along with other services. Jones argued he generated collections more than $9 million. In 2021, the clinics served 41,364 patients, the busiest of all of the clinics, based on the suit.
But in April 2021, based on the suit, CPS quit paying him and in February 2021 the organization began transferring his patients to other clinics and “making disparaging remarks” about him to patients.
CPS countered that Jones didn't deliver “safe and efficient medical care, which CPS in court filings related to an “ongoing compensation dispute.” The suit is pending.
Pain specialist William Wagner is also suing the company. He said he relocated from Boise state broncos to open a CPS clinic in Anderson, S.C., lured by the promise of $30,000 per month in salary along with a share from the profits from urine tests and other services.
Instead, based on Wagner, CPS failed to collect bills for services he rendered and then closed the clinic. CPS denies Wagner's claims and says it fulfilled its obligations under the contract. In a counterclaim, CPS argues that Wagner owes it $190,000. The case is pending.
Several contractors, including companies that leased office space and medical software, also have taken CPS to the court alleging unpaid bills and leases, according to court filings. The cases are pending.
Kroll told KHN last year he and fellow anesthesiologist Steve Dickerson came up with the idea for CPS in August 2005, on the mug of coffee at a Nashville Starbucks. At that time, Tennessee was confronting a growing opioid epidemic.
Kroll, raised in North Carolina, had moved to Nashville to produce a career in anesthesiology, a specialty he chose after watching his older brother die from an agonizing disease with little the aid of pain specialists.
Joined by two other doctors, Kroll and Dickerson opened having a single storefront in suburban Hendersonville. Dickerson, who had been elected towards the Tennessee Senate in 2012, remains at CPS, according to its website. Calls to Dickerson's office weren't returned.