Doctors’ prescriptions are contributing to an alarming surge of drug overdose deaths in four southern California counties, according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times. Reporters identified a total of 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs from 2006 through 2011 in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and San Diego counties. In 1,762 of those cases — 47% — drugs for which the deceased had a prescription were the sole cause or a contributing cause of death, reporters found.
Disturbingly, a group of 71 doctors wrote prescriptions for drugs that caused or contributed to 298 of those deaths: 17% of the total linked to doctors’ prescriptions, the Times says. But of those doctors, only four have been convicted of drug offenses in connection with their prescriptions. A fifth is awaiting trial on charges of second-degree murder in the overdose deaths of three patients – but the rest have never faced criminal prosecution over their practice of medicine, according to the Times.