In the latest installment of the Los Angeles Times’ investigative series on prescription drug addiction, the spotlight turns to rogue pharmacies that provide massive amounts of painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs to addicts and dealers.
Pharmacists are required by law to scrutinize prescriptions and refuse to dispense a drug when they suspect the patient has no medical need for it, the report notes, but are key enablers of drug abuse and an important source of supply for the illegal market. The California Board of Pharmacy is struggling to police the industry and initiate disciplinary action against corrupt pharmacists, but they are overwhelmed: California’s 42,000 pharmacists filled 318 million prescriptions last year, the article says.
The LA Times recently issued another report finding that the California Medical Board has repeatedly failed to protect patients from reckless prescribing by doctors: it rarely tries to suspend the prescribing privileges of doctors under investigation, and even when it imposes sanctions, in most cases it allows doctors to continue practicing and prescribing. The Times’ examination of board records and county coroners’ files from 2005 through 2011 found that eight doctors disciplined for excessive prescribing later had patients die of overdoses or related causes; prescriptions those doctors wrote caused or contributed to 19 deaths.
The Times also recently reported that doctors’ prescriptions are contributing to an alarming surge of drug overdose deaths in four southern California counties. 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.