Tag Archives: doctors

Ga.’s prescription database in danger due to funding

computerpillsGeorgia’s new prescription drug monitoring database, which is set to become operational in June, may run out of the money it needs to operate soon after its implementation because lawmakers failed to appropriate any funding for the program when they passed legislation to create it in 2011, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A two-year, $400,000 federal grant that pays startup costs for a new prescription monitoring program grant expires Sept. 30, the paper says.

In Georgia — which is among the last six states in the nation to put a prescription monitoring program in place, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws — prescription drug abuse causes or contributes to the overdose deaths of 11 people every week.

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Calif. lawmakers take action on painkiller abuse: LAT

bluepillsA California Senate committee has given the stamp of approval to a package of bills aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, including a measure that would require coroners to report deaths involving prescription drugs to the Medical Board of California. The Los Angeles Times reports that the committee also signed off on a bill that would upgrade the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, known as CURES. In addition, the committee approved a measure that would make it easier for the medical board to investigate physicians suspected of overprescribing and suspend their prescribing privileges, and a bill that would prohibit pharmacies from advertising commonly abused narcotic medications, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, according to the LA Times.

Before moving to the Senate floor, all four bills must clear additional committees, the Times said.

The 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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Growing support for painkiller prescription limits: poll

RXA new study has found that 52% of respondents believe doctors should face limits in prescribing potentially addictive pain medications. The survey, conducted by advocacy coalition Research!America, identified widespread anxiety about prescription pain medications, with 85% of respondents expressing concerns that the drugs can be misused. In addition, nearly 50% described prescription drug addiction as a major U.S. health problem, while 63% said they know someone who has taken prescription medication to cope with severe pain, the study found.

Drug 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.

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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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Iowa’s ‘lock-in’ program aims to curb doctor shoppers

computerpillsIowa has taken an interesting approach towards stopping the practice of seeking out multiple doctors for painkiller prescriptions with a program that “locks” Medicaid recipients into using one doctor, one pharmacy and one hospital. And according to this article, the program appears to be having some positive results: by locking in more patients, the state saved $14.8 million from July 2010 through September 2012 in the cost of drugs and doctors’ visits.

The number of “locked-in” Iowa Medicaid recipients has increased sevenfold from 200 in 2010 to 1,430 in January, the article says, a jump that came after Iowa Medicaid started screening patients not for just doctor-filled prescriptions, but for non-emergency visits to hospital emergency rooms.

The state’s prescription drug monitoring program was launched in March 2009, but only one-quarter of Iowa doctors and prescribers are registered to use the database, which includes more than 4.2 million prescriptions annually, the article says.

Prescription painkillers caused 62 deaths in Iowa in 2011, up from just four deaths in 2000, while prescription abuse treatment admissions more than quadrupled from 187 in 1999 to 878 in 2009, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

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N.C. drug monitoring database underused: report

RXLike many states, North Carolina has implemented a prescription drug monitoring database to identify people who abuse and misuse powerful painkillers. Now, a new study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows that the system – which is voluntary – is only used by about one-third of the 34,000 physicians who are registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency to prescribe controlled substances – and fewer than half of those registered actually used it in the last six months of 2011.

However, at the same time, the number of patients with the most severe drug-seeking behaviors – those who used 10 prescribers and 10 pharmacists within six months – decreased substantially from 217 in 2008 to 115 in 2012, the study found.

Prescription drug overdose kills an average of three people per day in North Carolina.

Nearly all states have operational prescription drug monitoring programs, with the exception of Montana, Nebraska, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Maryland, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia, according to the latest research from the Alliance of States with Prescription Monitoring Programs.

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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. AG calls for boost to prescription database: LAT

computerpillsCalifornia’s attorney general is pushing lawmakers to fund an effort to identify physicians who recklessly prescribe addictive medications.

Kamala Harris told the Los Angeles Times she wants to use a state database of prescriptions, known as CURES, to identify doctors who abuse their prescribing powers.

Harris has called for upgrading the cash-strapped database – which is now used mostly to identify “doctor-shopping” addicts – and establishing two criminal enforcement teams to investigate suspicious patterns of prescribing, the Times said. CURES would automatically alert authorities to prescribing that appears “questionable or excessive,” helping to identify doctors who write large numbers of prescriptions for narcotic painkillers or drug combinations popular among addicts.

The struggling CURES system currently has a budget of just $400,000 a year and is overseen by a single employee in the attorney general’s office, according to the Times.

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In Fla., pill mill crackdown falling short: Miami Herald

medcabinetFlorida’s battle against its massive prescription drug epidemic has been ongoing for years, with state officials taking a number of measures to combat abuse. But despite these efforts, it seems the fight is far from over, according to this recent article in the Miami Herald. Although many of the so-called “pill mills” seem to have shifted to the more permissive regulatory environment in nearby Georgia, some operators have switched to weight-loss or anti-aging clinics, where they continue to sell profitable pharmaceuticals right on the premises, the article notes.

Florida’s much-anticipated prescription drug monitoring database had been touted as a great triumph in the state’s fight. But a recent investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that the vast majority of medical practitioners don’t even use the system, because they are not required by law to check it to see where and when their patients filled previous prescriptions, the type and quantity of drugs they got and who prescribed them.

Since the system was launched last September, more than 48 million prescriptions have been written in Florida for controlled substances — about 2.5 for every man, woman and child in the state — but prescribers checked the database before writing just 2% of them, the article says.

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Costco pharmacist claims he was fired for whistleblowing: ABC

pillsscatteredA former Costco pharmacy technician is suing the retail giant, claiming he was fired after raising concerns and contacting law enforcement about doctors he believed were over-prescribing powerful painkillers, ABC Los Angeles reports. Shad Thomas says he red-flagged seven local doctors over the years – including Dr. Lisa Tseng, the Rowland Heights former physician now awaiting trial on three counts of second-degree murder for the overdose deaths of three patients, and another who he claims prescribed 7,000 oxycodone to a single patient in one year. Costco has a bonus program for pharmacy managers that is partly based on sales, incentivizing managers to allow addicted patients to continue filling massive scripts, according to ABC News.

See more of ABC News’ reporting on painkiller abuse in southern California here.

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