MARION — The doctor who has certified dozens of patients throughout Southern Illinois for the state's medical marijuana program announced on Tuesday he plans to close his clinics in Marion and Orland Park.
In an emailed statement, Dr. Bodo Schneider announced the closure of the Pied Pfeifer Compassionate Care Clinic in both locations. In late 2014, when the state began accepting applications for medical marijuana certification, several hundred people sought Schneider's services because their regular health care providers either declined to participate, or were directed not to by their employers.
The company is “sad to announce the closing of their offices in Illinois,” the statement reads, but “regrettably the business model has not lived up to forecast.”
For patients Schenider has certified for the Illinois Medical Marijuana Pilot program, clinics will be held twice a year at both locations to maintain the bona fide patient/physician relationship to maintain compliance with the state’s rules and regulations for the participants of the program, he said.
The last day for regular office visits will be Feb. 17 “to give our patient management and primary care patients an orderly transition,” he said.
Schneider said he intends to return to emergency medicine and apologized for any inconvenience the closure causes his patients. Addressing his patients, Schneider said he will "miss your visits." When the state’s medical marijuana pilot program began, people flooded his office seeking certification of their qualifying conditions.
That was because the region’s major medical organizations — Southern Illinois Healthcare, Heartland Regional Medical Center, the SIU School of Medicine and others — directed their physicians not to certify patients for the program, citing legal uncertainty given that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
In his statement, Schneider said, “Helping the cannabis community get off the ground and the success that our patients have achieved has been especially rewarding.”
Schneider has been involved in a protracted battle over his practice with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which issues licenses to and oversees numerous professionals including medical doctors.
The state filed its original complaint against Schneider on June 29, 2015, alleging he inappropriately certified patients for the state’s medical marijuana pilot program by failing to establish a “bona fide physician-patient relationship." It also accused him of taking a fee from patients for “pre-certification for medical marijuana without conducting physical examinations” in violation of the act.
In December, the state filed an amended complaint adding two additional counts alleging that Schneider was inappropriately prescribing, without the proper examinations and monitoring, opioid pain medications that are highly addictive and often abused by patients because of their addictive qualities.
The amended complaint stated that, following an interview by federal Drug Enforcement Agency officials and a subpoena for Schneider’s prescription monitoring program records, state regulatory officials determined he had 10 patients on “embarrassingly high opioids” for the period that was reviewed.
Schneider has denied all allegations made by the state and said he would be “mounting a vigorous defense.” The complaint filed against Schneider is not criminal in nature; it seeks to suspend, revoke or reprimand his medical license.
A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for March 7 before the agency’s administrative law judge in Chicago. Schneider did not address the state's complaint against him in his statement.
The Marion Pied Pfeifer Compassionate Care Clinic opened in September 2013 at 8386 Old Route 13 in Marion. Schneider, who is the medical director, said that without a university program or multi-specialty practice it is "extremely difficult to accomplish our mission and I can no longer go it alone."
Schneider has defended his practice and not shied away from advertising that the clinic is sympathetic to patients in Southern Illinois wanting to access the medical marijuana program. He has said his practice has provided an opportunity to patients in the region that otherwise would be shut out of a treatment option to which others living elsewhere in the state have easier access. Schneider said he does not think medical marijuana is right for all patients, but that it can benefit some, such as a patient with terminal AIDS who has little appetite or a terminally ill cancer patient in pain but who does not respond well to traditional pain medications and their side effects.
“They’re not trying to get high,” he said of patients in an interview with the newspaper roughly a year ago. “They’re not out for fun and games. They’re looking for relief.”