Monthly Archives: April 2013

Calif. doctor pleads guilty to illegal pill sales

pills and pill bottlesA Southern California doctor will plead guilty to charges of illegally prescribing powerful prescription painkillers to patients at nightly meetings in Starbucks coffee shops, ABC News reports.

The patients paid up to $600 to see Dr. Alvin Mingczech Yee at Starbucks locations across suburban Orange County in exchange for drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin, according to ABC.

His plea agreement recommends a prison sentence between eight and 10 years, ABC says.

One of Yee’s patients, a 21-year-old woman, died of a drug overdose in 2011 after he prescribed drugs for her, and Yee may be associated with several other overdose deaths as well, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The LA Times recently issued a 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.

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S.F. pill deaths up, but heroin deaths down due to naloxone

naloxone-hcl-narcanIn San Francisco, efforts to educate the public about naloxone — an antidote that reverses the effects of an opiate overdose — has led to a drop in heroin-related deaths, but abusers of prescription medications are still suffering fatal overdoses. In 2003, San Francisco became the first California city to publicly fund the distribution of naloxone, which has saved more than 900 lives over the past decade — and reversed 274 overdoses in 2012 alone, according to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle. But only 13 of last year’s 274 naloxone reversals were for prescription opiate overdoses, and another 37 involved the painkillers in combination with other drugs, the article says.

Fatal overdoses from heroin in San Francisco, which peaked at around 160 a year in the mid-1990s, have dropped to fewer than 10 a year today, and the city’s emergency rooms reported a 49% decrease in heroin-related visits from 2004 to 2010, the article says.

Meanwhile, the use of oxycodone rose by 528% from 2004 to 2010 based on emergency room visits, and non-heroin opiate use jumped 212%, according to the article.

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Drug fatalities rose 3% in 2010: CDC

imgname--prescription_drug_abuse_on_the_rise---38647165--images--flickr_2931207680Drug fatalities increased 3% in 2010, driven largely by prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers rose to 16,651 in 2010, comprising 43% of all fatal overdoses, according to this article citing the CDC’s research. The article quotes CDC director Tom Frieden as saying about the prescription drug addiction epidemic:

“While most things are getting better in the health world, this isn’t. It’s a big problem, and it’s getting worse.”

He adds:

“The data supporting long-term use of opiates for pain, other than cancer pain, is scant to nonexistent. These are dangerous drugs. They’re not proven to have long-term benefit for non-cancer pain, and they’re being used to the detriment to hundreds of thousands of people in this country.”

In February, the CDC found that drug overdose deaths increased for the 11th consecutive year in 2010, and that most of those deaths were accidents involving addictive painkillers.

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