Tag Archives: pill mills

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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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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FDA panel backs stricter controls on Vicodin

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may be set to reclassify hydrocodone-containing painkillers like Vicodin from Schedule III drugs to the more restrictive Schedule II, with an expert panel voting 19 to 10 in favor of the more stringent prescribing requirements. During a two-day hearing last week, the panel heard testimony from proponents who noted hydrocodone’s abuse potential (such products are currently the most-abused prescription medicine behind oxycodone), while critics argued that the move would hinder legitimate pain patients from obtaining treatment.

The FDA usually, but not always, follows the advice of its advisory panels.

The misuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in just five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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NYPD to use GPS ‘bait bottles’ to track illegal pill sales

The New York Police Department says it plans to use an innovative approach to combat the theft of painkillers by asking pharmacies to hide fake pill bottles fitted with GPS devices amid the legitimate supplies on their shelves, this article reports. The NYPD says the initiative was prompted by a rash of high-profile crimes associated with the thriving black market for oxycodone and other prescription drugs in recent years, including the slaying of four people on Long Island during a pharmacy holdup in 2011, the article says. Officers will ask roughly 6,000 pharmacists and 1,800 pharmacies in the New York City area to adopt use of the bottles, which can be tracked in the event of a robbery or theft.

The GPS devices will be provided by Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin – the most-abused medicine in the United States.

New York has suffered brutally at the hands of the prescription drug addiction epidemic, and experts say things have only gotten worse since the quadruple homicide at a Medford, N.Y. pharmacy in 2011. According to this article, there were 92 instances in Nassau in 2011 in which prescription opioids were linked to overdose deaths – a tally higher than either of the previous two years and more than triple the 2004 figure. Forty-five of those deaths happened after the Medford killings, the article says.

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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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