Dr. Denise Oldenberg, the Cherokee Village physician who lost her license to practice in October, has received a judge's permission to start seeing patients again.
Oldenberg filed an appeal last month challenging Arkansas State Medical Board decisions fining her, suspending her license, and permanently revoking her license for prescribing excessive amounts of painkillers, failing to properly monitor patients, and violating board orders.
On Thursday, Nov. 18, Oldenberg's attorney, Larry Kissee, argued in Sharp Circuit Court that he will prove, on appeal, that the medical board broke state laws and its own regulations during the hearing against her.
During the appeal process, Kissee asked Judge Kevin King to allow Oldenberg to resume seeing patients.
"We are asking that you reinstate her until the hearing," said Kissee. "We are willing to make some concessions. Not give any more (spinal) injections, stop prescribing medications for ADD and weight loss and agree to monitoring by the state."
Kissee added, "The board, if it wants, can set a limit or number of drugs she can prescribe."
Medical board attorney William Trice told the judge that Oldenberg had appeared before the board many times, over the years, for over-prescribing medications, failing to monitor patients and keep adequate records.
According to Trice, Oldenberg has resisted board efforts to help her properly run her practice, which specializes in treating patients with chronic pain.
Trice reminded the judge that, earlier this year, the board allowed Oldenberg to resume seeing patients, after an emergency order shut her down. But, while Oldenberg agreed to stop writing prescriptions for Schedule 2 narcotic drugs, investigators turned up evidence the doctor continued to dispense controlled drugs.
"Dr. Oldenberg sat right there in the hearing," Trice said, "and admitted it. "The board revoked her license because she broke her own deals with the board."
Should the judge allow Oldenberg to resume seeing patients, Trice urged that he not allow her to prescribe Schedule 2 narcotics.
After the two attorneys presented their arguements, Judge King met with them in his chambers, then announced his decision.
"The court issues a stay of the revocation and suspension," said the judge, allowing Oldenberg to reopen her office.
"The court is not going to stay the ability of Dr. Oldenberg to write prescriptions, as far as Schedule 2 prescriptions, banning Oldenberg to prescribe narcotic drugs.
More than 30 of Oldenberg's patients and supporters attended the hearing and gathered around her after the judge's ruling.
"It's a start," said Salem resident Tina Crenshaw, a long time patient of Dr. Oldenberg. "At least she can now help us get our medicines for seizures, blood pressure, diatetes, antidepressants."
Crenshaw and other Oldenberg patients have complained other doctors in the area have not been willing to see them. So they have not been able to obtain even non-narcotic medications they need to keep them functioning.
"So you intend to start seeing patients again?" The News asked Oldenberg.
"Yes, I can start tomorrow (Nov. 19), Oldenberg responded. I asked them."
Oldenberg called the ruling "a first step" and expressed confidence she will win her appeal and, one day, be able to again provide controlled narcotics to give patients relief from the chronic pain from which most suffer.
"They are my family," said Oldenberg. "My patients are my family."
Patients surrounding her responded, "Yes!".
"She is the best person."
"She is my best friend."
Oldenberg's attorney indicated his appeal will center on the fact that his client was found guilty of "over-prescribing" medications but the medical board has refused to define what constitutes "over-prescribing".
Kissee and Oldenberg both note the state's Chronic and Intractable Pain Act allows pain management physicians to treat patients with controlled drugs and to prescribe large doses to bring relief.
"In 2008 (at a previous disiplinary hearing), we had two experts that said nothing I have prescribed has caused any harm or any deaths," said Oldenberg.
Oldenberg expressed bitterness that six of her chronic pain patients had died since her license was suspended and she could not treat them.
According to Oldenberg, two died of hypertensic crisis and stroke and one from a bleeding ulcer. One died after turning to "street medicines, street drugs" when she could not get legal medications and two died from apparent suicides.
"One, we know, had a suicide note and shot himself because he could not endure the pain anymore," said Oldenberg. "He was totally dependent on Schedule Twos. Could not find a doctors to prescribe Schedule Twos."
Medical board attorney Trice told the court that Oldenberg's license was suspended and permanently revoked because Oldenberg is "a danger to the health and safety of the public."
Oldenberg insists she will win her appeal and prove the state wrong.
"I am determined. I am not only a doctor, I am a Marine. A Marine is a bulldog when they know what is right."