Tag Archives: pain clinics

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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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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Calif. medical board probing doc tied to 16 OD deaths: LAT

RXThe Los Angeles Times continues its investigative series on prescription drug addiction, this time turning the spotlight on a prominent Orange County physician who has allegedly been tied to 16 fatal overdoses. The paper, which had earlier reported on Dr. Van Vu – a pain management specialist in Huntington Beach – as part of its series, says the state medical board has now opened an investigation of its own concerning the physician.

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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Stricter doctor monitoring laws needed: consumer group

pills and pill bottlesConsumer Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group, is urging California lawmakers to hold hearings and investigate strong new laws in response to recent Los Angeles Times reports on widespread drug overdoses due to physician over-prescribing. In a letter sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday, the group cited a disciplinary system that “caters to the interests of physicians and their political might, while refusing to answer to patients’ needs for greater transparency and accountability.”

The group also asked legislative leaders to consider random drug testing of physicians, citing a recent report about the medical board agreeing to restore the license of a West Hollywood psychiatrist who pleaded guilty to felony drug dealing and admitted to using methamphetamine.

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Rogue pharmacies recklessly distributing pills: LAT

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.

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Calif. medical board failed to police reckless doctors: LAT

The Los Angeles Times continues its investigative series on prescription drug addiction with this report on two doctors who inappropriately prescribed painkillers, leading multiple patients to overdose and die – raising questions about the adequacy of the state’s medical board.

According to the newspaper, 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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Doctors hold some blame for pill addiction: editorial

Here’s an interesting editorial by two doctors weighing in on the recent debate over the extent to which doctors’ prescriptions are contributing to the alarming surge of drug overdose deaths across the nation. They note that while many legitimate pain patients are rightly given opioid prescriptions, their pain often persists — possibly from hyperalgesia, a hypersensitivity to new pain caused by those very opioid prescriptions. Between tolerance and hyperalgesia, they say, patients often need escalating doses of opioids just to feel pain-free, increasing the chances of overdose. In their opinion, “conscientious and well-trained doctors are partly to blame for the rapidly rising death rate among Americans from prescription pills.”

Physicians’ prescribing practices have recently come under fire in California, where an investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that a small group of doctors four southern California counties had written prescriptions for a number of patients who later overdosed and died. 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.

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Surge in Calif. overdose deaths linked to doctors’ prescriptions

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.

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