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Family says doctor, teacher violated drug policy

May 11, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

A Hagerstown doctor doubled a 9-year-old boy's prescription for attention deficit disorder medication without his parent's permission and based solely on a conversation with his teacher, the boy's family alleges.

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The doctor sent the prescription to the school.

The prescription was not filled, but the boy's family is angry about the teacher's intervention in violation of a school policy that says family members must initiate all requests for medications to be given at school.

School officials and the doctor, Dr. Bruce Weneck, declined to comment, citing confidentiality rules.

It was unclear why the teacher and the doctor did not talk to the boy's mother before changing his prescription.

Interrupted from a game of tag outside his Clear Spring area farmhouse, the black-haired boy was asked how he's doing at school. He acknowledged he has been "bad."

"He's a typical boy," said his grandmother, Reva Largent.

Largent said she makes sure he takes medication every morning at breakfast to treat attention deficit disorder. She said he began taking 5 milligrams of Adderall daily in January.

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A school medical form requesting an increase in the dosage is blank in the area where parents are to give their authorization. It is signed by the doctor.

That form and the doctor's prescription for 10 milligrams specify the dosage was to be administered at school.

The prescription was dated April 7.

The family says the special education teacher, Amy Beck, called the boy's mother, Margie Clay, that day. During the conversation, Clay became angry that Beck had talked to the doctor without her permission.

The family learned about the prescription by chance the following Monday when they called the doctor's office to get the original prescription refilled.

"She had no right going behind our back," Largent said.

"If they were trying to help, they should have asked us first," Clay said.

The family is troubled by what could have happened if he had been given the increased dosage at school on top of the 5 milligrams he was getting at home. Largent is convinced that if the boy had a bad reaction her daughter would have been blamed because she is borderline mentally retarded.

"That 'if' just hangs in my mind real thick and heavy," said Reva Largent.

In general, the risks of the drug are low, said Dr. James Perrin, a Boston pediatrician who works with the American Academy of Pediatrics to develop guidelines on diagnosing attention deficit disorder.

The Washington County Board of Education has investigated the matter, said Phil Ray, director of human resources. Citing the teacher's right to confidentiality, Ray would not reveal the results of the investigation.

Beck declined to comment through Sharon Chirgott, president of the Washington County Teachers Association.

Weneck also turned down several requests to be interviewed. He cited patient confidentiality.

When Largent first confronted school officials, both the doctor and the teacher denied the family's allegation, she said.

Later, Clear Spring Elementary Principal Jill Burkhart gave the family two documents - a county Board of Education's medication order form completed except for a parent's signature, and the doctor's prescription.

The boy is going to a new doctor and is taking the higher dosage of Adderall daily.

Family members are supposed to initiate all requests for medications to be given at school, said Martha Roulette, director of student services.

If a student is having problems in school, a team of school staff members is supposed to work with the family.

"It's never appropriate for a teacher to make a specific recommendation," she said.

It's against the law for doctors to prescribe medications for minors without the parents' permission, a spokesperson for the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurance said.

The boy's mother and grandmother said they plan to file a complaint with the board, which has the power to impose penalties including suspension of doctors' licenses.

Any action the board takes against physicians is public information. It's available on the board's Web site at www.docboard.org.

Largent has taken her complaint to the school system. So far, she said, she has not been satisfied with the response she has received. Most people point to the fact that no harm was done, she said.

The family refuses to give up until someone takes their complaint seriously.

"I don't know why they're trying to pick the rug up and sweep it under," she said.

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