CHAMPAIGN — Barry Price, Jacque Luchik and Pamela Hudson all have one thing in common.
They were patients of Dr. Maher Ahmad, they take prescription narcotics for various medical conditions, and they were all informed recently that they needed to find another doctor, they said.
"Quite a few" of Ahmad's patients have been terminated recently for being out of compliance with a new narcotics medication policy the doctor adopted Jan. 1, according to Carl Hill, who is helping Ahmad with the business side of his practice.
The new policy requires patients to sign and initial each provision on a medication contract. Those wishing to continue taking narcotic medications need to see the doctor every 30 days, stick to provisions of their contracts and pick up their prescription refills in person at the doctor's office, he said.
Ahmad said he also requires patients to undergo random drug testing so he can be sure they're using the drugs properly.
"Misuse of these drugs is a serious national problem," he said. "We have to control it."
Patient-physician agreements for narcotic pain medications aren't unusual. Carle physicians use such agreements for patients being treated with opioids for chronic pain, Carle spokesman Sean Williams said.
"This is a standard of care that is becoming increasingly utilized by health care providers nationally," Williams added.
Price, 55, said he wasn't told he needed a drug test and doesn't understand why Ahmad terminated his care. He also said the new requirement would be an added financial burden for him, because he's uninsured, and pays for the full cost of office visits and other medical care out of pocket.
And his medication is a Fentanyl patch, so it should be obvious to Ahmad if he's using it properly, Price said.
"How can you hide it when you go to the doctor's office?" he asks. "I wear it all the time."
Hudson, 60, is on Medicaid and has since transferred her care to Frances Nelson Health Center, she said.
Hudson said she learned Ahmad had terminated her as a patient when she sought a refill on a Vicodin prescription that was set to run out Feb. 21.
"That leaves people in a bad situation," she said.
Luchik, also of Urbana, said Ahmad asked both her and her husband to find a new doctor.
She believes, in her case, it has more to do with conflicts she's had with one of Ahmad's nurses over trying to take care of prescription refills.
Determined to get a refill on two of her prescriptions one day recently, she went to Ahmad's office and waited for him there until someone in the doctor's office called the police and she was forced to leave.
"I said I think he could have given me two minutes of his time," she said of Ahmad.
Hill acknowledged some patients have been angry about the new policy and terminations.
His wife, Jane Hill, a registered nurse who is also helping Ahmad in his office, says patients who were terminated are eligible for 30 days of emergency care as they transition to new doctors. They just can't get refills on their narcotics prescriptions.