- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 23, 2003

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors can examine Rush Limbaugh’s medical records to determine whether he should be charged with “doctor shopping” for prescription painkillers, a judge ruled yesterday.

Mr. Limbaugh accused prosecutors of going after him for political reasons.

Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jeffrey A. Winikoff denied the conservative radio commentator’s request to keep the records sealed, but did say prosecutors cannot make the records public. Mr. Limbaugh’s attorney promised a prompt appeal.

The judge said the state has a “compelling” interest in determining whether Mr. Limbaugh broke the law, trumping his right to keep his medical records private.

Palm Beach County prosecutors insisted that they need to review the records to determine how much Mr. Limbaugh’s doctors knew about his frequent prescriptions for OxyContin, hydrocodone and other painkillers and whether he was “doctor shopping.” That term refers to looking for a doctor willing to prescribe drugs illegally or to getting prescriptions for a single drug from more than one doctor at the same time.

Mr. Limbaugh’s attorneys had argued that the seizure of the records from doctors in Florida and California violated the radio host’s privacy. Investigators obtained the records last month after discovering that Mr. Limbaugh received more than 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach mansion.

Mr. Limbaugh recently admitted his addiction, stemming from severe back pain, and took a five-week leave from his weekday-afternoon radio show to enter a rehabilitation program.

During his nationally syndicated program yesterday, Mr. Limbaugh accused authorities of leaking information in an attempt to damage his reputation and said Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer, a Democrat, has a political agenda.

“The Democrats still cannot defeat me in the arena of political ideas. And so now they’re trying to do so in the court of public opinion and the legal system,” Mr. Limbaugh said. “And since I’m not running for office, they can’t get to me that way. They’re going to seek the occasion of this event in my life to see, to find out if they can do any damage.”

Mr. Krischer had said in a statement earlier yesterday that Mr. Limbaugh’s rights have been protected and noted the judge’s comment that prosecutors have “acted in good faith.”

Authorities began investigating Mr. Limbaugh last year, after his former maid told them she had been supplying him with prescription painkillers for years.

Mr. Limbaugh’s attorney, Roy Black, said he would appeal by the end of the day.

“Mr. Limbaugh was not doctor shopping, and he should not have to sacrifice his privacy to prove his innocence,” he said in a statement.

At a hearing Monday, Mr. Black said his client suffered from a degenerative disc disease with “pain so great at one point doctors thought he had bone cancer,” but Mr. Limbaugh chose to take painkillers rather than have surgery.

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