CLEARFIELD – A pain management and drug addiction expert testified Tuesday, as the trial continued for a DuBois doctor accused of over-prescribing medications to two patients.
In January of 2018, Henry G. Dela Torre, 70, was charged with two felony counts each of administration of controlled substance by practitioner and submitting claim or referring improper service.
Dela Torre was also charged with two misdemeanor counts of giving controlled substance to dependent person and recklessly endangering another person.
The charges stem from an investigation into the fatal overdose of one of his patients, Rachel Shumaker, on Aug. 21, 2016 at a Punxsutawney residence.
Local police contacted narcotics agent James Embree with the Attorney General’s Office over Shumaker’s fatal overdose because of the multiple opioid prescriptions at the scene.
These medications were in Shumaker’s name and had been prescribed to her by Dela Torre, according to previous trial testimony.
On Sept. 30, 2016, her brother, Randal, also a patient of Dela Torre, overdosed. However, he was administered two doses of Narcan and recovered to his normal state.
After the second overdose, Embree was contacted again, and the investigation was turned over to narcotics agents with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Diversion Unit.
On Tuesday jurors heard from the commonwealth’s expert witness Dr. Stephen Thomas, who reviewed medical records concerning Dela Torre’s treatment of patients, Rachel and Randal Shumaker, in 2015 and 2016.
He said Rachel Shumaker began to receive treatment from Dela Torre on April 7, 2015 for drug addiction and specifically for Suboxone and Klonopin management.
He said Dela Torre diagnosed her with anxiety disorder, panic disorder and drug dependence, and also discussed the dangers of mixing Klonopin and Suboxone.
He explained both drugs are depressants for the central nervous system and are known to result in overdoses. He said medical professionals must use caution, if prescribing the drugs together.
Thomas said Dela Torre had Rachel Shumaker, a heroin addict, sign a consent form on which he “strongly” advised her against taking this drug combination. He then prescribed her both drugs.
During her next appointment, he said Rachel Shumaker’s drug screening was positive for both Suboxone and Klonopin, as well as Valium, which Dela Torre had not prescribed her.
He said Valium and Klonopin have the same effect, and as soon as Dela Torre learned Rachel Shumaker was using Valium he should have adjusted her dosage of Klonopin appropriately.
According to Thomas, Dela Torre continuously noted his concerns about Rachel Shumaker using Valium, and warned her that he would terminate her treatment if she continued to use the drug.
However, he said Rachel Shumaker continued to fail the routine drug screenings, testing positive for Valium and Dela Torre never terminated treatment, as she continued to be prescribed Klonopin.
Thomas said Dela Torre had notes indicating Rachel Shumaker appeared “lethargic,” which he said was most likely due to her level of intoxication from the combination of drugs she was on.
He testified that Rachel Shumaker’s drug abuse was “out of control,” but medical professionals, like Dela Torre, have the responsibility to help them change their behaviors.
Thomas said Dela Torre prescribed at a level that fell below the standard of care for any responsible physician, and was not in “good faith.”
He said Dela Torre was well aware Rachel Shumaker abused drugs, and fueled her addiction because he failed to significantly adjust her prescriptions.
Thomas will continue his testimony at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Courtroom No. 1 at the Clearfield County Courthouse.