Health and Medicine

A program that will fight the opioid crisis regionally on several fronts was announced by Total Action for Progress this morning. The focus is on women, especially those who are also sustaining a household. It includes partners in the Alleghany Highlands and the New River Valley.  Local partners for the RESTORE progam including Carilion and the Bradley Free Clinic, which has monthly drop-in hours for those that seek help in kicking their opioid addiction. Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea noted that TAP was among the select few social agencies to receive funding for the new initiative:

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They don’t take breaks, show up for work late and most importantly they mix compound drugs the same way every time. Carilion Clinic showed of its pair of new compounding robots today.  Don and Doff as they’ve been nicknamed have been working with their human colleagues at the hospital for about a month. Cheryl Boone is the pharmacy manager at Carilion Roanoke Memorial:

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Photo: SW Regional Jail Auth.

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — A Virginia doctor who prosecutors said ran his Martinsville medical practice like an interstate drug distribution ring was sentenced Wednesday to 40 years in prison for illegally prescribing opioids. Dr. Joel Smithers, of Greensboro, North Carolina, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.

Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Day Rottenborn said Judge James Jones sentenced Smithers to 40 years. He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life. Smithers was convicted in May of more than 800 counts of illegally distributing opioids, including oxycodone and oxymorphone that caused the death of a West Virginia woman.

Authorities say Smithers prescribed more than 500,000 doses of opioids to patients from Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee while based in Martinsville, Virginia, from 2015 to 2017.

Smithers, 36, a married father of five, testified that he was a caring doctor who was deceived by some of his patients. Some patients remained fiercely loyal to him, testifying that they needed the powerful opioids he prescribed for them to cope with chronic pain.

Smithers wrote in a court filing that he plans to appeal his convictions.

The Virginia Department of Health says it has confirmed that a southwest Virginia resident has died from a severe lung injury associated with vaping. The victim died at a Greensboro, North Carolina medical center; health privacy laws prevent state officials from releasing his or her name. At least 12 other deaths attributed to e-cigarette use have been reported in ten other states.

NEWS RELEASE: Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) confirmed that a Virginia resident has died in the outbreak of severe lung injury associated with e-cigarette use or “vaping.” This death was reported by Cone Health in Greensboro, N.C. on September 26, 2019.

“I am deeply saddened to announce the first death of a Virginia resident related to this outbreak. Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. The decedent was an adult from the southwest region. To protect patient confidentiality, VDH will not release additional details.

As of September 30, 2019, there have been 31 lung injury cases, including the death, in Virginia. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 805 cases from 46 states and one U.S. territory, as of September 24, 2019. Twelve other deaths have been confirmed in 10 states.

The cause of this outbreak is unknown. VDH recommends that people who are concerned about lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use or vaping refrain from using e-cigarette products. Regardless of the ongoing investigation, people who use e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.

E-cigarette products should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products. In addition to other potentially harmful chemicals, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm brain development. People who do use e-cigarette products should monitor themselves for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever) and promptly seek medical attention or call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 if symptoms develop.

groundbreaking for Carilion Children’s/G Marrano photo

Carilion Clinic announced today it is leasing 150,000 square feet of space at Tanglewood Mall — space primarily to become home to outpatient practices of Carilion Children’s pediatric services. They will use areas last occupied by JC Penney and Miller-Motte Technical College. Carilion officials say the space is centrally located and has plenty of parking. Kimberly Dunsmore is chair of pediatrics for Carilion Clinic:

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The new facilities are expected to be operational within two years.

NEWS RELEASE: Carilion Clinic today announced it have leased 150,000 square feet of space at Tanglewood Mall in Roanoke County, supporting the region’s evolving innovation efforts. The space will become home to outpatient practices of Carilion Children’s and may house other clinical services in the future as well.

“After years of adding more and more specialized pediatric services for our community, we’re excited to have a new home for those services,” said Nancy Howell Agee, president and CEO of Carilion Clinic. “More than a dozen pediatric and adolescent specialties are represented at Carilion now. This development will help us make access easier for our patients and their families.”

The Tanglewood Mall space was appealing because it offered two important benefits to patients: it is centrally located and has plenty of parking available. It will allow Carilion Children’s to consolidate outpatient specialty practices, thereby improving coordination of patient care among those practices.

“This is an exciting day for Carilion Children’s,” said Dr. Kimberly Dunsmore, chair of pediatrics for Carilion Clinic. “This new facility will set the stage as pediatric care in our region continues to transform and grow. Our goal remains the same: to provide specialized care, close to home, for the children in our community who depend on it.”

Extensive renovation of the space will be required and is expected to begin this winter. Practices that will move to the new facility are still being determined. The new Carilion Children’s location will be up and running in 18 to 24 months.

“We’re thrilled to have Carilion Children’s as our new anchor tenant at Tanglewood Mall,” said John Abernathy, President of Blackwater Resources, the owner of Tanglewood Mall. “And we can’t wait to see the community of merchants who will grow around Carilion’s development.”

The leased space Carilion will fill was last occupied in 2018 by J.C. Penney and Miller Motte Technical College.

“Carilion is a valuable partner to Roanoke County,” said Phil North, chairman of Roanoke County’s Board of Supervisors. “Their investment at Tanglewood Mall will serve as a catalyst for future development in the 419 corridor and will bring renewed energy to Tanglewood. It’s an exciting time to be living and working in this region.”

The Carilion Children’s renovation project at Tanglewood Mall is expected to cost more than $30 million. This is included in the estimated $1 billion Carilion plans to invest in capital projects across the communities Carilion serves during the next seven years, as announced in May 2019.

Carilion will request proposals from architects and general contractors for this project.


The Virginia Department of Health says more reports are coming in from across the state of men who take over-the-counter male enhancement pills being hospitalized for hypoglycemia – very low blood sugar levels. The pills are commonly sold at convenience stores under the brand name “V8”. Symptoms include a racing heartbeat, anxiety and shakiness. Anyone with those symptoms is advised to seek immediate medical care.

NEWS RELEASE:  In mid-August, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) received a report from the Virginia Poison Center of a cluster of patients in the Central Virginia area with severe hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar levels) requiring hospitalization, following use of an over-the-counter pill promoted for male sexual enhancement. The pills are commonly sold at convenience stores and/or gas stations in Virginia. Following the initial report, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) issued a press release advising consumers not to purchase or use a product sold under the name “V8”.

There are reports of similar illnesses across Virginia, in individuals who have reported taking the pills. As of September 16, 2019 VDH has received additional reports of illness associated with V8 in the Eastern Region (one case), Central Region (four cases) and Southwest Region (six cases). Of those, VDH has confirmed seven cases; four remain under investigation.

Symptoms of severe hypoglycemia include sweating, a racing heartbeat, irritability, anxiety, shakiness and altered mental status. Individuals experiencing symptoms of severe hypoglycemia should seek immediate medical attention. Previously reported cases have recovered with timely medical treatment.

Individuals and healthcare professionals should contact one of Virginia’s three Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 about adverse events and side effects of products.