MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A pain specialist faults prescriptions by an Alabama physician accused of federal crimes in the 2016 drug overdose death of a former guitarist for rock band 3 Doors Down.
Dr. Richard Snellgrove is accused of unlawful distribution of drugs and health care fraud in a case tied to the death of Matthew Roberts. The Fairhope physician faces up to 240 years in prison and up to $2.8 million in fines if convicted.
Al.com reports that Dr. Rahul Vohra testified Wednesday in the trial in Mobile that Snellgrove's records don't justify the painkillers he was prescribing, especially because he knew Roberts struggled with addiction.
Vohra is a specialist in pain treatment who works in Jackson, Mississippi, and reviews case files for Mississippi authorities of doctors suspected of improperly prescribing pain medicine.
He testified that Snellgrove did not use enough non-drug therapies; was willing to give opioids to a known addict; and escalated the strength of prescriptions at a rate Vohra found excessive. Vohra said a doctor has the responsibility to act when a patient shows signs of addiction.
Roberts was a founding member of 3 Doors Down when the rock group began in 1996 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Roberts left the band after its 2012 European tour, checking into rehab the same year. He was found dead in August 2016 in a hotel hallway in West Bend, Wisconsin, where he had gone to perform a charity concert.
Roberts' family is also suing Snellgrove, Rite Aid Corp. and others in a civil lawsuit in state court in Alabama. That case is stayed pending the outcome of Snellgrove's criminal case.
Snellgrove's defense team argues their client provided reasonable treatment for a patient who had legitimate medical needs. Questioning Vohra, defense attorney Art Powell suggested that Roberts might have been deceiving Snellgrove, getting prescriptions from other sources and abusing street drugs as well.
Vohra also agreed when Powell asked him if Roberts might have had lasting pain from a 2006 car wreck and surgeries on his wrists for carpal tunnel syndrome and on one hand for a tendon disorder.
Powell brought up a suggestion that at one time, Snellgrove had deliberately been prescribing lower doses in order to wean Roberts off specific drugs. Vohra maintained that was illegal: That if Snellgrove knew Roberts had an addiction problem, he was forbidden from prescribing more painkillers. Robert should have been referred to a specialist for any such weaning treatment, he said.
"That's what the DEA wants you to do," said Powell.
"That's what the DEA makes you do," said Vohra.
Shortly before his death, Snellgrove gave Roberts a prescription for Fentanyl patches delivering 75 micrograms an hour of the drug. The patches are designed to be worn for 72 hours each, so that 10 last a month. Powell suggested that at the time of this death, Roberts might have gone through four of them in 30 hours.
The defense attorney posed a hypothetical question: If Roberts had taken his medicine as prescribed, might he still be alive?
"He might be," Vohra answered.