Opinion: Pain management is full of fraudulent practices and practitioners

Opinion: Pain management is full of fraudulent practices and practitioners

Terri A Lewis, PHD

Terri A Lewis, PhD

By Terri A Lewis, Ph.D.

Pain management is full of fraudulent practices and practitioners.  The only way to deal with this is for patients to educate themselves before they go looking for help.  In Oklahoma, as in other states, it is the responsibility of state Medical Boards to regulate medical practitioners and practices within their states.  FDA approves but does not regulate drugs or their off label uses by Physicians.  That’s the responsibly of the Oklahoma Medical Board, spelled out in law; the Board link itself is found at http://www.okmedicalboard.org/.  The Medical Board’s Mission is to-

  • Promote the Health, Safety and Well-being of the citizens (patients) of Oklahoma by requiring a high level of qualifications, standards and continuing education for licenses regulated by Oklahoma Medical Board.
  • To protect the on-going Health Safety and Well-being of the citizens (patients) of Oklahoma by investigating complaints, conducting public hearings, effectuating and monitoring disciplinary actions against any of the licensed professionals, while providing the licensee with proper due process and all rights afforded under the law.
  • To provide any member of society upon request, a copy of the specific public records and information on any of the licensed professionals.

The Medical Board’s Vision is “To ensure that qualified health care professionals are available to the citizens of Oklahoma.”

Medical Board’s Stated Values and Behaviors

We take pride in our agency’s ability to ensure that qualified healthcare professionals are available to the citizens of this state. We will perform our responsibilities with integrity and professionalism. We recognize the importance of personal and professional development for each employee and we will seek ways to expand their knowledge and capabilities. We will be responsive to the needs of the potential licensees. The agency strives to process an application for licensure within a reasonable length time. We are committed to protecting the public from the aberrant practices of any licensed professional. We will be sensitive to the complaints from anyone concerning a professional licensed by the agency.

Complaints in any form and from any source will be reviewed, acknowledged and adjudicated to some conclusion within a conservative time period. We will respond in a timely manner to anyone needing services and/or information from the agency in person or by telephone, fax, e-mail, postal mail or the Internet. We value our ability to serve the public by providing useful and easily accessible information. All public records are available for review and all board meetings are open to the public.

The members of the Oklahoma Medical Board are appointed to multiyear terms and membership is located at this link: http://www.okmedicalboard.org/pdf/board_and_committee_members.pdf

The Drugs in Question

The approved uses for Dexamethasone, Kenalog, and Vitamin B12 are located on an FDA website. Physicians are allowed to use approved medications for off  label applications if they feel it is warranted and there is nothing to prevent this except patient vigilence. Helpful links are:

Dr. John Michael Lonergan’s license information is located at the link: http://www.okmedicalboard.org/licensee/MD/28344

Who should file a complaint?

Injections for pain management are big business and easy money.  There is little to prevent a doctor whose license has been suspended in one state from setting up shop in another state.  According to reports, Lonergan is employed by the Priceless Beauty Spa in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, where he claims that “the Jesus Shot cures chronic pain for life.   If that claim is made to patients who are charged $300 for the shot, and they feel that they have been sold a medical procedure under false pretenses, or the injection they receive creates serious adverse events, they should contact the Oklahoma Medical Board at the links above and file a complaint.  Complaint procedures arelocated at this link: http://www.okmedicalboard.org/complaint.

They may also want to contact the state Better Business Bureau and file a trade complaint against the Priceless Beauty Spa at the following link: http://www.bbb.org/oklahoma-city/

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Authored by: Terri A Lewis, PhD.

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I don’t understand the comments in this article when Dr. Lewis is simply explaining a certain situation with certain ways for affected individuals to get help and make complaints. I wish I could see more broad-mindedness in these discussions, with the exception of a few who are informed, making informed comments. This article, as well as many others, don’t necessarily apply to “you.”

TIm Mason

“Pain management is full of fraudulent practices and practitioners” That may be your opinion but it is not mine. Epidural lumbar steroid injections (ELSI) have helped me during my 20+ years struggle with pain. I received two last month in my lumbar where scar tissue has formed from a 2014 spinal fusion with instrumentation and a newly extruded disc at L4-L5. I am in pain but controlled to a level of 5-6.
I can tell you that the pain specialists practice I use is not a “Beauty Spa”. Injections helped my put off a hip replacement until 2013 and they work for my shoulder. I used to see a Chinese neurologist and pain specialists that did give an injection in the top of my shoulder that worked instantly. I asked what it was and he said “It is old Chinese remedy”. I am certain it was Botox. It was not a fraudulent injection and he gave it to me for free.
That general statement you made was intended to reflect the entire pain management practice in the US. Opinions like this stoke the fires of misinformation for those that are misinformed about chronic pain, the patients and the medications they require to function.

Scott michaels

heres the deal..
8 years ago when my pain got so bad i was finally sent to a pain mgt.dr. i went thru 3 epidurrals, trigger injections, some type of shock therapy and something else. Nothing helped at all. Slowly he started to give me pain relievers. Finally after 9 months of increasing doses, i was finally comfortable with my pain level. The doc was worried because i have to take strong doses to get the pain level to a 3 to4. he then had me take a metabolism test. it said the medicine goes right thru me. he was then comfortable with the doses. I have been on the same dose for 7 years now. Yes the pain is worse on some days and my condition is worsening. when i asked that doc why he made me do all that other stuff, he said if not the dea will give him a hard time. Now for the last 3 years i am with a large provider. i had to move to a different area. my new doc tried to make me do all that stuff over again. i sttod my ground and showed her years of the same prescriptions being filled every month. Here is the problem. My pain does get much.worse now when the weather changes. its really bad, i cant walk, use my hands, move my head and my lower back is aweful. I am afraid to say anything to my doctor. She will say the medication doesnt work any more and take me off with.out anytging to replace it. Based on my OWN history if i could have 3 to 4 extra pills a month for those days, i would be fine. Because of our govt, the cdc and prop, they have made it so a patient cant talk candid with their doctor with out fear of accusations of being a drug seeker and being dropped. I actually feel they are waiting for me to do 1 wrong thing just to drop me. Because of that, I only take my pain medicine, i dont drink ever, i dont smoke pot and i wont even take a valium. was this the goal of the cdc.

Terri Lewis PhD

@ Cerys,
The fungal meningitis outbreak happened exactly like the story in Oklahoma. It involved 21 states, 2600 line items of product distributed through 75 injection clinics by 75 different ‘pain management doctors’ who cut corners or outright operated illegally. Some of these individuals operated in doorways, others in back rooms, some in outpatient ambulatory surgical centers, and others in major hospitals. This industry is fragmented and does not police its activities or providers. It does not disclose its errors.

This lack of self monitoring is what harms good providers who operate with care, concern and precision to assure that persons with chronic pain needs get the best care possible. And with the CDC’s recommendations that injections are a viable nonpharmaceutical option for opioids, we are going to see an increase in opportunists who set up shop to magnify their income without caring about consumer outcomes.

Terri Lewis PhD

@Cerys, I was specifically requested to respond to a specific story about a charlatan provider operating in Oklahoma. That information was not provided with the piece that was printed. The information provided was directly excerpted from the Oklahoma Medical Board Website. I gave specific instructions for the conditions under which consumers who feel they need to make a complaint can do so.

Apart from that, there are excellent pain management providers in practice – without a doubt. Competent practitioners are not worried about my comments. They save lives every day. And they aren’t giving Jesus shots at 300.00 bucks a crack out of a ‘beauty spa.’

There are also thieves, crooks, liars and scumbags who are making a buck while betting on the lack of information by naive patients. And they will sell consumers a Jesus shot full of corticosteroids (legal or not legal-who knows?) or any thing else they can talk you into. And that happens EVERY day at a rate that is unchecked but rewarded by our systems of care. And consumers have very little recourse.

I would far rather that you are bothered by my comments than embrace a position that the industry is free of questionable providers. Further, medical boards are notorious for their failure to monitor these practices – as we have seen with the fungal meningitis outbreak that exposed 14,000 persons to contaminated injections, killed 86 and sickened more than 800 who will NEVER RECOVER.

So I confirm my suggestion that consumers must do their homework in order to ascertain whether they are using a reliable provider. I provided the links for consumers to make up their own minds.


This opinion piece makes sweeping generalizations. The author needs to rewrite the piece to reflect her true intent: an attack on a Dr. Lonergan (who sounds like a quack based on the information the writer provided). Maybe it reduces her risk of being sued if she casts aspersions on a larger group?

But making the blanket statement “pain management is full of fraudulent practices and practitioners” is wrong and harmful to patient access to care. It’s certainly fodder for the CDC, DEA, etc. to justify their full-on attack against pain care providers.

Beyond that, it’s insulting to the committed physicians still willing to tackle pain care in America. I’m grateful I still have a physician willing to put his license and livelihood on the line every day. He CARES about providing pain relief to patients like me who would otherwise have no hope at all.

Visiting “Priceless Beauty Spa” for a “Jesus Shot” to “cure” chronic pain is NOT pain management. And some quack making ridiculous claims doesn’t negate the fact that injections are a legitimate part of pain management for some people.

The right injection done by the right doctor can bring much-needed relief to the right patient. I know. I’ve had several injections. The majority helped. And the ones that didn’t served to clarify which of my several spinal conditions was causing which pain. But I wouldn’t presume all injections were beneficial to all patients.

We all bemoan the cost of health care. Insurers certainly do. As does the federal government which evidently would prefer pain patients crawl under a rock. When Medicare pays pennies on the dollar, it forces higher costs overall and increased charges to private insurers. Also, the price of injections reflects not only the specialized training, equipment, medication, and support staff involved but the rising cost of complying with mounds of regulatory paperwork.

I’d rather pay my well-trained caring pain management physician what he’s worth than risk spinal paralysis, lung puncture or any number of other serious complications at the hands of someone less capable or less caring. Those combined attributes can be hard to find.

Making sweeping incendiary generalizations about fraud and fraudulent quacks doesn’t honor the honest, decent, well-trained medical providers still willing to help people in pain. Nor do they counteract the current antagonism toward the field pain management. That’s why I find this opinion piece upsetting and blatantly wrong.


Ive been to Pain Management six times and had 12 shots total, it must of been sugar-water it didn’t do anything but aggravate my back, so it must be a money making rackett !!!

Teresa Haney

Sounds to me like the CDC is encouraging injections. Its been my experience that injections in the spine are not only useless, they are very dangerous.

Kathy Cooper

I remember something called “Science” , there was a Method for determining if a treatment or Medication was useful, dangerous or outright quackery. I wonder what happened to Science? Imagine a World where they use Science to determine what works for any Health Care issue. Imagine a world where they based Policy Decision on Science, not industry Insiders, Faith Healers, and opinions of people with no background in Science.


Approach pain management as the CDC described … that’s your be all, end all with regard to individuals, such as myself, suffering from chronic pain on a 24/7 basis? Really? What are your credentials to make such a statement as it’s clear as day you do not suffer from chronic pain.

Tell you what, how about we switch bodies for a day or, better yet, have multiple spinal injections which are nothing more than a cash cow. Even better, why don’t you have the back surgery I just underwent?

Perhaps then and only then, you might get a clue as to what we deal with every day.

It’s my guess you’re under the impression the CDC knows everything there is to know about chronic pain. I’ll give you a clue — they don’t know anything except, of course, putting guidelines in place for opiates due to the overdoses and deaths caused by too many prescriptions for pain relief.

Make sure you take note of the many heroin overdoses & street drugs taking the lives of us that will continue to seek relief from our chronic pain until the only avenue left is suicide.

Robin Jewell

It seems as marijuana is legalized in more states and loses its stigma, opiates have become the new boogeyman that is going to kill us all and has to be regulated for our own good. Let dozens die from alcohol poisoning and people shrug. Let one person die from taking too much Perocet and now we need 100,000 new laws and regulations.

For five months, I’ve been walking around on a broken knee that won’t heal – this is in addition to my three chronic conditions that cause pain. Even with something as easily proved as that, getting pain medication is damn difficult. The new guidelines are only going to make that problem worse. People at work joke that I must have super power levels of pain tolerance. Not really, I’ve just learned to function in a fog of pain and only sleep for two or three hours most nights. Try learning a whole new set to programs critical to your job when just getting dressed taxes you mentally and physically.

Jean Price

Seriously…”the Jesus shot”? And just $300. A real bargain, I’d say. Wonder if God gets royalties? For goodness sake….just when I thought I’d heard everything! And the only thing they suggest is to report the “doctor” or call the BBB to report the spa? I’d think there would be something the medical board could legally do to stop this! The sad thing is, people in pain are so desperate for hope and relief, they would try this. I’ve always said if you told me dog poop would help, I’d ask to borrow your dog! You would think this alone would make the CDC, the DEA, and the government sit up and realize that we’re losing our lives and livelihoods to pain, and that opioids are a viable adjunct therapy. Obviously this doctor knows, and is trying to cash in on it! In that respect, is he any different than the big pharmaceutical companies or some anesthesiologists turned “pain specialists”? Not very, I’d say.

This is why the CDC just put out Opiate Guidelines. It clearly states that opiates are not the cure-all and that an integrated multidisciplinary approach that includes non-opiate meds, physical therapy, behavioral therapy, and injections IS WHAT IS NEEDED TO TREAT PATIENTS. Everyone is exploiting the system unless they approach pain management just as the CDC described.

Yvetta Barbee-Miles

Its full of all kinds of deception . But those of us whom are really suffering , are the ones who are paying the price. I have been stopped in stores asked if I’m OK. And if I need a ambulance. I tell them no I live like this. Yet there are Dr s that treat me like this is a game. We should not have to pay for the wrongs in the world.