West Virginia doctor investigated for deaths in opioid epidemic

On Wednesday, dozens of medical nonprofit groups pleaded with hospital regulators to tighten national rules for prescribing painkillers. America has an opioid epidemic, and West Virginia is ground zero.

Doctors there write 138 prescriptions for every 100 people. Now, the state has launched a crackdown. Seven doctors have lost their licenses and 15 more are being investigated. CBS News sat down with one of them.

Meet Dr. Michael Kostenko. He’s written more than 40,000 prescriptions for oxycodone in the last two years.

CBS News

He says at any given time, he has between 800 to 1,000 active patients in his practice. Nearly 100 percent of them get prescriptions for oxycodone.

Court documents show that Kostenko is one of West Virginia’s top ten prescribers of painkillers.

CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod asked him how many prescriptions he had written earlier in the year.

“Did you write 325 prescriptions the first week of January for more than 19,000 oxycodone pills?”

“Possibly,” Kostenko replied. “It may well be.”

Operating at the end of a narrow, unpaved, pot-hole filled, two-mile logging road, Dr. Kostenko hosts group sessions at his Coal Country Clinic. He posts videos of the sessions to YouTube, showing him explaining his approach to treating disease and pain through changes in diet and behavior.

After filling out a medical self-assessment, each patient pays $120 in cash. As the video shows, at the end of each class they’re handed their prescriptions for pain medications. There are hardly ever private exams.

In a screengrab from one of Dr. Michael Kostenko’s YouTube videos, a patient is given a prescription after a group session

Michael Kostenko/YouTube

“There’s very little that we need to do in private in our office,” Kostenko explained to CBS News.

“You don’t need to conduct a…

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