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Minn. Doctor Battling Addiction Says AG’s Opioid Plan ‘Absolutely Necessary’

November 26, 2016 08:39 AM

A Minnesota doctor who admitted to stealing prescription pills to feed his addiction to opioids says a proposal to require doctors to study pain management and substance abuse disorder is “absolutely necessary.”

Luther Philaya spent 22 years working in hospitals all over Minnesota. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to obtaining controlled substances by fraud while working as an emergency room doctor in Princeton.

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“I wrote prescriptions to a couple of other people and we split them,” Philaya said.

Now in recovery, Philaya will soon begin a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he will study addiction medicine.

Earlier this month, the State of Wisconsin announced doctors will soon be required to take continuing education courses to better understand opioid prescriptions and abuse.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson urged state lawmakers this week to pass similar legislation.

“Minnesota does not (require continuing education) but we should,” Swanson said Wednesday at a press conference where she detailed several proposals to combat the opioid epidemic.

Swanson says opioid prescribers and dispensers should have to take at least two hours of periodic continuing education to better understand “the risks associated with these drugs which are highly, highly addictive.”

Philaya applauded Swanson’s proposal, saying few healthcare professionals learn about substance abuse in medical school.

“People that should be providing care aren't because they aren't educated,” he said, adding that medical professionals are most vulnerable to addiction.

A 2009 study by the Mayo Clinic found, "Approximately 10 percent to 12 percent of physicians will develop a substance use disorder during their careers, a rate similar to or exceeding that of the general population."

Philaya says more education could have helped him identify his addiction sooner.

“I certainly didn't know what substance abuse disorder was,” Philaya said.


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Joe Augustine

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