5 Doctors Plead Guilty in WV Hope Clinic’s Pain Relief Scheme

Federal prosecutors said Monday that five doctors pleaded guilty to prescribing painkillers involving clinics in West Virginia and Virginia.

The scheme was linked to the Hope Clinic and included the prescription of oxycodone and other controlled substances that were not used for legitimate medical purposes from 2010 to 2015. A 10-hour day with only one practitioner working, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The Hope Clinic had offices in Beckley, Beaver and Charleston, West Virginia, and Whiteville, Virginia.

The statement said the four doctors pleaded guilty in federal court in Charleston to charges of aiding and abetting obtaining a controlled substance through fraud.

This is 66-year-old William Earley from North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Brian Gullet, 45, from Clarksville, Pennsylvania; Roswell Tempest Lowry, 88, from Efland, North Carolina; and Vernon Stanley, 79, from Fayetteville, West Virginia.

The statement said Mark Clarkson, 64, of Princeton, West Virginia, pleaded guilty to five counts of aiding and abetting misbranding drugs involved in interstate trafficking.

“These requests are indicative of our office’s ongoing efforts to protect lives and prevent future overdoses by all means possible,” U.S. Attorney Will Thompson said in a statement. “A lot of effort went into this case.”

Gullett, Early, and Stanley signed numerous oxycodone prescriptions for a client at the Charleston Hope Clinic in 2013. They acknowledged that the client’s medical record did not support prescriptions that were not for legitimate medical purposes, prosecutors said.

In August 2014, Lowry filled Hope’s client with a prescription for 180 oxycodone tablets in Charleston. He admitted that he deliberately didn’t read the customer’s card to determine if those prescriptions were needed. Instead, Lowry gave the client the same prescriptions as previous doctors, the statement said.

Gullett, Early, Lowry, and Stanley acknowledged that clients reported being addicted to painkillers, failing multiple times or having abnormal drug tests, buying pills on the street, and selling Hope’s prescription pills to others. The statement said doctors did not discuss the possibility of addiction or the need for addiction treatment with these clients.

Clarkson admitted to helping Hope’s clinic write prescriptions after major retailers stopped prescribing and smaller pharmacies couldn’t keep up with Hope’s customers. In 2014, Clarkson wrote illegal prescriptions for 635 oxycodone tablets to five different Hope customers in Virginia in 2014, which were filled at an Adkins pharmacy in Gilbert, West Virginia, prosecutors said. In 2020, Adkins Pharmacy agreed to pay an $88,000 fine.

The verdict to the doctors is scheduled for December 22. Gullett, Early, Lowry and Stanley face up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine each. Clarkson faces up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

The doctors were indicted in 2018 along with the owners, managers and other doctors associated with Hope’s clinic and the group that ran Hope’s day-to-day operations. The remaining defendants are awaiting trial.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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