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Calif. medical board under fire amid rising OD deaths

computerpillsParents whose children died of drug overdoses urged California’s medical board on Monday to utilize a tracking database of prescriptions to help identify doctors who over-prescribe powerful narcotics amid the state’s growing addiction epidemic. The testimony came from members of advocacy organizations, including the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, and other individuals and experts who said the board’s failure to investigate complaints of physician misconduct in a timely manner has often had deadly results.

By the time parents were allowed to start their testimony, several of the board’s members had wandered out of the hearing, leaving only five active listeners (the board currently has 15 members.) When one of the parent speakers – a registered nurse whose son was addicted to pills and died of a heroin overdose last year – asked when the full board would be available, one of the members replied “soon” and added that everyone’s testimony would be transcribed.

Not very reassuring.

Among the powerful speakers were Bradley DeHaven, whose son was previously addicted to OxyContin; April Rovero, the founder of NCAPDA after her son died of a prescription drug overdose; and Jodi Barber, producer of the short film Overtaken who lost her son to an Opana overdose.

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Calif. doctor facing murder charges in wake of pill overdoses

A California doctor known as “Dr. Feelgood” has been charged with murder and 21 other felony counts in connection with the prescription drug overdose deaths of three of her patients. Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng, an osteopathic physician from Rowland Heights, Calif., wrote more than 27,000 prescriptions over a three-year period starting in January 2007 – an average of 25 a day.

According to Los Angeles County prosecutors, Tseng opened a storefront medical office in Rowland Heights in 2005. The Drug Enforcement Administration launched an investigation in 2008 after a pharmacy reported overlapping customers.

Tseng has been charged with murder in the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 29, of Lake Forest, Calif. on March 2, 2009; Steven Ogle, 25, of Palm Desert, Calif., on April 9, 2009; and Joseph Rovero III, 21, an Arizona State University student from San Ramon, Calif. on Dec. 18, 2009. All were patients of Tseng, who prescribed a myriad of drugs for the three young men.

Tseng, who is being held on $3 million bail, faces a possible maximum state prison term of 45 years to life. She has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Read more about Tseng here.

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Watch it: “The Pill Problem” by NCAPDA

It will take less than half an hour of your time to watch this amazing account by the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse of the toll prescription drug addiction can take on young lives – but your mind may be forever changed. Featured in the video is NCAPDA founder April Rovero, whose son Joey died in December 2009 from a lethal combination of alcohol and misused prescription medication. Friends of Joey and another casualty of the epidemic, Matt Varon, share how pill abuse shattered their lives. Please watch and share!

Part 1:

Part 2:

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Teen pill abuse revealed, no holds barred, in CA town

In many communities, feelings of shame and outright denial prevent people from talking openly about the reality of prescription drug abuse – but some are breaking free of that mold.

Take the San Francisco suburb of Dublin, Calif., where a very real conversation on the subject of pill abuse happened when the police department held a community forum today on teens and prescription drugs, particularly OxyContin. Officer Eric Chaloner of the special investigations unit said it’s been tough to get some cops to realize that pills are just as dangerous as hard drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine – even though they’re constantly finding them in the cars of kids they pull over for driving offenses. The typical Oxy abuser profile, he said: a white, affluent, 16-to-23-year old individual whose car has multiple dents and burn marks on the interior upholstery and with stacks of lighters and pen tubes in the console, and perhaps most frighteningly, “whose family and friends are aware of their addiction, but oblivious to the severity of the problem.”

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Florida’s governor-elect draws fire over drug abuse watchdog shutdown

The governor-elect of Florida, Rick Scott, is attracting criticism for his plans to shut down the office tasked with setting the state’s drug-control policy and reducing substance abuse. Several parents who have lost children to prescription drug overdoses, including April Rovero, have posted on Scott’s Facebook page asking him to reconsider his decision to eliminate Florida’s Office of Drug Control.

To lend your thoughts to the issue, visit Rick Scott’s Facebook Page here and click on “Rick Scott + Others” to post your own thoughts.

Read more about the efforts of Rovero – who founded the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse after her son, Joey, died in December 2009 from a lethal combination of alcohol and misused prescription medication – here.

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Pill abuse among teens rampant in California Bay Area

Abuse of prescription medications – primarily OxyContin – is on the rise among teenagers in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to this report by ABC 7 News. San Ramon resident April Rovero, who founded the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse after her son, Joey, died in December 2009 from a lethal combination of alcohol and misused prescription medication, tells the news channel Joey was prescribed what abusers call “the holy trinity:” OxyContin for severe pain, Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, and Soma, a muscle relaxant. Meanwhile, a teen addict says he quickly graduated from popping Oxys at so-called “Skittle Parties” – in which teens raid their parents’ medicine cabinets and dump all the pills in a bowl to be taken like candy – to shooting heroin because it offered the same high at a more affordable price.

NCAPDA is hosting a video contest to help build community awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Learn more here.

Watch Rovero speak on her son’s death and the dangers of prescription drug abuse here.

Listen to Rovero speak about opiate abuse here and here.

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Watchdog Editorial: Prescription take-back day holds promise if public is made aware

A police officer loads drugs from the Take-Back day sponsored by the San Ramon Regional Hospital Foundation and the San Ramon Police Department

Though Saturday’s DEA-sponsored Prescription Drug Take-Back Day could potentially affect the dissemination of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, future success of the initiative hinges on local efforts and public awareness. A little funding would be nice too.

Chances are that most people with unused prescription drugs received conflicting information on the best way to dispose of them, reports Media Health Leaders.com. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Office of National Drug Control Policy recommend tossing the pills in the toilet or trash, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service state that the chemicals from flushed drugs are harmful to the environment and end up in our drinking water.

“I believe this event has done a lot to help people throughout the country understand the need to get rid of these medications,” says April Rovero, who founded the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse after her son, Joey, died in December 2009 from a lethal combination of alcohol and misused prescription medication.

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