KINGSTON, Okla. (KXII) A Texoma nurse turned herself into authorities Monday after being charged with unlawfully handing out dangerous drugs.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter charged owner and nurse Addie Gratz, and her supervising doctor Dr. Azuka Egbuniwe, last Thursday with unlawfully prescribing hydrocodone out of a clinic in Tishomingo.
That clinic is now closed down.
"You had a nurse who was essentially providing scheduled II controlled dangerous substances to patients and you had a supervising doctor who was just filling out blank forms,” Hunter said.
Patients claiming to be Gratz' told us they’re now seeing her at her new location in Kingston, so we gave that clinic a call. A recording said the office was closed due to a personal emergency.
Through the window you can see a sign for "First Choice Health Clinic" on Main Street.
But when we checked the Oklahoma Secretary of State website, we found the only business listed under Addie Gratz was the First Choice Wellness Center on Main Street in Tishomingo, formed in June 2007 but inactive for at least two months.
Officials at Kingston City Hall told us the water bill for the Kingston building is under Addie Gratz.
When we contacted the Oklahoma State Department of Health, they told us their agency does not license these facilities. They likely operate under the physician's license.
"The investigation doesn't conclude with the charges,” Hunter said. “So it will be an ongoing review of her activities."
Gratz did not have to be booked in, did not have to have a mugshot taken and she's now out on bond.
Her lawyer declined comment, and an associate at First Choice told us she did not want to talk to us.
Dr. Egbuniwe still has an outstanding warrant for her arrest. She told News12 had no idea about it and that the medical board told her the investigation was over.
Gratz is due back in court on May 9.
Hunter said Oklahoma loses about a thousand people a year to overdoses, most of which are attributable to opioids.
He said the number of substance impacted babies is also up nearly 50 percent, from 500 in 2016 to close to 1000 in 2017.
“So the victims of the epidemic aren’t just users,” Hunter said. “In many situations they are newborns. And family and friends are also in a way victims.”
Hunter said the two attorneys heading up his office’s lawsuit against drug manufacturers both lost family members themselves.
“The epidemic in Oklahoma,” Hunter said. “If we’re not ground zero, we’re pretty close.”
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nonopioids like Advil or aspirin may be just as effective as opioids for pain management, without the addictive tendencies.
“So the idea that people need this drug to manage their pain isn’t consistent with the science or and the most recent research,” Hunter said. “People may not know it, they may not recognize it, but in most cases what’s happened is they’ve become addicted to the narcotic.”
He told News12 a bill that limits the prescribing of opioids to a week just passed in the legislature. The governor is expected to sign it later this week.