“We stopped:” Orthopaedic doctor no longer prescribes opioids after best friend’s murder

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SOUTH BEND, Indiana —  An Indiana doctor has changed the way he practices medicine after the murder of a colleague — a man he considered his best friend in the business.

“When this happened I said ‘I’m not writing those medications anymore. We will find other ways to take care of their pain,'” Dr. AJ Mencias said.

In July, South Bend Orthopaedics was the scene of a deadly shooting. Dr. Todd Graham was gunned down in the parking lot. Police said it happened after he refused to prescribe pain pills to a patient’s wife.

“When I first moved to town about 13 or 14 years ago, one of the first people I met in this community was Todd Graham. He came up, introduced himself and he said, ‘hey, I’ll be your friend.’ Really at that point we became the best of friends. He was my partner. He was my brother,” Dr. Mencias said.

And after the murder, Mencias said he quickly decided to change his ways.

“He was murdered on July 26th. I came back to work the following week.  I told my office staff ‘we’re not prescribing the same opioids that we used to prescribe, and that includes percocet, oxycodone, hydrocodone, vicodin, lortab, norco. We just basically essentially stopped prescribing it,” Dr. Mencias said.

Dr. Mencias said he then had to figure out a way to control patients’ pain after surgery. He’s implemented several non-addictive alternatives, like the ON-Q Infusion Pain Pump.

“Delivers anesthetic agent to their nerves so that for several days after surgery, they have no pain,” Mencias said.

Before July, things were very different.

“Every single person was getting percocet or norco, or strong opioids. Every single one of them. Between 30 and 60 pills. We’ve been very successful not prescribing it,” Mencias said.

While he said it won’t bring back his best friend, it’s a chance to create some good in his honor.

“This never would have become truly a passion of mine unless my best friend was murdered, and I talked to his wife and family and they believe something good has to come out of this and so for me, this ‘something good’ is this,” Mencias said.