An Upstate doctor and physician’s assistant are accused of conspiring to illegally prescribe drugs. According to warrants, Blake and Amanda Leche of Pain Management Associates conspired to dispense prescriptions for Hydrocodone and Oxycodone that had been signed in blank by Dr. Blake Leche.
Their arrest warrants were signed more than two weeks ago, but a patient of Amanda Leche tells 7 News that she was never notified of their arrest and how it would affect her medication until she showed up for a refill.
“I hope that this place is completely shut down,” said Heather Ballew, who had been a patient at Pain Management Associates in Greenville. “I hope that all their affiliates are shut down for the pain and suffering that they’ve caused.”
Pain Management Associates has four locations in the Upstate and two locations in western North Carolina.
Ballew said she received an unpleasant surprise Friday when she went to pick up her prescription.
“I called on Monday like I’m supposed to, to let them know hey, it’s time for my refill,” she said. “[I] never received a call back. Didn’t know what was going on. I just assumed that I’d come up here, pick up my prescription. Come up here, and then they inform me, like they have been doing everyone else, that they can’t write any prescriptions.”
She says other patients she encountered were having the same experience. It turns out her provider, Amanda Leche, was gone after being accused of conspiring to improperly prescribe opioids, along with Pain Management Associates Dr. Blake Leche.
“When I asked them about it, they said, ‘Well, it’s all over the news’….well, I don’t watch a lot of TV,” Ballew said.
7 News also reached out to the Greenville Pain Management Associates clinic she attended. The people who answered the phone declined to comment. We then asked them if it was true that they hadn’t notified the Leches’ patients that their medications could not be filled, they hung up. 7 News’ calls and messages to Pain Management Associates’ corporate counsel Friday went unanswered and unreturned.
So why does it matter if people can’t get their pain medication?
“When that opioid is taken away, you go through a very serious withdrawal syndrome,” said Rich Jones, who is the CEO of Faces and Voices of Recovery, or FAVOR, Greenville.
He knows about withdrawal all too well.
“I’m in recovery from an opioid use disorder, and I was addicted to prescription pain pills,” he said. “Thankfully it’s been 18 years, but I still remember very very well what that was like.”
He said it’s like the flu, but worse.
“On a scale of one to ten, it’s a 12 in terms of discomfort,” Jones said.
He said the pain is so bad, people will look elsewhere, whether on the street for more drugs, or even to suicide.
Ballew said she thinks she’ll be okay. She’s more worried about other patients who have more severe pain.
“I’m going to be in agony, but there’s people that can’t even get out of bed, and they have horrible things wrong with them,” Ballew said.
Jones urges anyone who is experiencing withdrawal not to buy drugs on the street because of the risks of lethal substances, such as fentanyl, that are regularly found mixed in street drugs.
He recommends reaching out to organizations in the area that can help with medication-assisted treatment for withdrawal. You can learn more about resources in our area here.