Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Physician overcomes addiction

-- Returns to work at downtown clinic -- Restricted from prescribing narcotics

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A Winnipeg physician stripped of his ability to practise medicine for propagating some of the worst OxyContin abuse Manitoba has ever seen is back on the job.

Medical regulators reinstated Dr. Anthony Hlynka's licence to practise last week -- less than six months after they revoked his medical registration and found him guilty of prescribing highly addictive painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet in a "reckless manner."

He has not practiced since May 2009, when he was suspended after another physician raised concerns over his prescribing practises.

A College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba investigation revealed Hlynka used 25 patients at his cityplace medical clinic to obtain and prescribe large quantities of narcotics for an extended period of time. At the time, the college said Hlynka propagated some of the worst OxyContin abuse they'd seen and worried the prescription abuse could potentially harm patients.

The Winnipeg Police Service's organized crime unit launched an investigation to see whether charges could be laid and if any drugs had been diverted and sold on the street. No charges have been laid.

College registrar Dr. Bill Pope said Hlynka's licence and medical registration were reinstated last week and he is back at work at Eaton Place Medical Clinic. Pope said the regulatory body was satisfied that Hlynka has sought treatment for his addiction and that he recognizes repeating this type of misconduct would be "ruinous" for his career. He said Hlynka's physicians and addiction care providers now say he understands the debilitating nature of addiction and that he has been drug- and alcohol-free since 2009.

Pope noted there are still concerns over Hlynka's practice, and that he will be stringently monitored.

Hlynka is not allowed to prescribe narcotics or treat any patient who abuses drugs or alcohol. His practice will be supervised by another on-site doctor, he must comply with random bodily fluid screens, and he must not ingest any prescription narcotic, any drug containing codeine, any benzodiazepines or alcohol.

Hlynka did not return an interview request from the Free Press.

"The executive is satisfied he recognizes the repetition of this type of misconduct would be damaging to himself and to others and ruinous for his career as a physician," Pope said.

Regulators discovered the young physician and University of Manitoba graduate was hooked on painkillers and used his medical position to feed his addiction.

An investigation uncovered that Hlynka wrote OxyContin prescriptions for some patients he knew well, and arranged for them to provide him with some or all of their painkillers for his own use. Patients asked Hlynka for OxyContin prescriptions for other people, and he wrote prescriptions in the name of patients he had never met or assessed to be handed over to third parties.

In other cases, Hlynka wrote prescriptions to patients with "no medical rationale" because he believed they would give the drugs to another patient of his who would supply him with some of the painkillers.

Pope said the college handed Hlynka a severe penalty, which included suspension, deletion from the province's doctor registry and a $30,000 fine.

Hlynka attended the Homewood Health Centre based in Guelph, Ont. The centre has the largest addiction treatment program for health-care professionals in Canada. Hlynka has also been involved with support groups for at-risk physicians.

Pope said it's not unusual for the regulatory body to reinstate a physician's licence.

Dr. Graeme Cunningham, director of addictions at Homewood, said it's possible for physicians to make a full recovery and return to work following proper treatment and strict bodily fluid and practice monitoring. He said physicians learn how to handle "triggers" and that 90 per cent are successful over the long-term.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2010 A3

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