Pain Doctor Accused of Aiding in Famous Guitarist’s Overdose
Fairhope, Alabama, physician Dr. Richard Snellgrove is accused of unlawful distribution of drugs and health care fraud in a case that is linked to the passing of famous rock band guitarist Matthew Roberts of 3 Doors Down. Roberts was a founding member of the popular group when it was first established in 1996 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He co-authored the band’s hit song “Kryptonite,” which was nominated for a Grammy award in 2001 for best rock song. Roberts left the band after its 2012 European tour in order to check himself into drug rehab. He was ultimately found dead in a Wisconsin hotel in August 2016.
Pain specialist Dr. Rahul Vohra testified Wednesday in the trial based in Mobile, Alabama, that Snellgrove’s records do not justify the painkillers he was prescribing the famous band member, especially considering he knew for years the musician struggled with addiction. Vohra is employed in Jackson, Mississippi, and reviews case files for Mississippi authorities of doctors suspected of improperly prescribing pain medicine.
Vohra said that, in general, a medical doctor has the responsibility to be an advocate for a patient who has addictive tendencies. And, yet, he accused Snellgrove of not using enough non-drug therapies, as well as testified the physician was willing to give opioids to a known addict and increased the strength of Roberts’ prescriptions at an excessive rate.
Roberts’ family is also suing Snellgrove, Rite Aid Corp., and other parties in a civil lawsuit in state court in Alabama. That case is stayed pending the outcome of Snellgrove’s criminal case. The family’s wrongful death complaint suggests that Snellgrove prescribed Roberts high levels of opioids, such as Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, OxyContin, Opana ER, Suboxone and Fentanyl, and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium from 2006 through 2012. In doing so, Roberts quickly and inadvertently became addicted.
The suit further claims Snellgrove is responsible for Roberts’ death because the doctor did not complete a risk assessment with the musician before prescribing the medications, did not regularly monitor Roberts, did not help Roberts get off the medication, and he continued to prescribe addictive drugs to Roberts without taking note of the possibly dangerous interactions between medications. “Commencing litigation is an important step toward holding these individuals and entities responsible for their role in Matt’s death,” Roberts’ family attorney, Joey Dumas, said.
Snellgrove’s defense team argued in court that the doctor provided reasonable treatment for a patient who had legitimate medical needs and suggested that the guitarist might have been getting prescriptions from other sources and abusing street drugs.
Shortly before his death, Snellgrove gave Roberts a prescription for Fentanyl patches which delivered 75 micrograms an hour of the drug. The patches are designed to be worn for 72 hours each, so that ten last a month. At trial, the defense team had suggested that Roberts might have gone through four of them in 30 hours.
The defense attorney posed if the famous musician would still be alive if he had taken his medication as prescribed. “He might be,” Vohra answered.
Snellgrove has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to 240 years in prison and up to $2.8 million in fines if convicted.