Medical Board of California Supports Bills Aimed at Prescription Drug Abuse

The Medical Board of California has voted to support measures designed to fight prescription drug abuse, the Los Angeles Times reports. The board refused to transfer its investigators looking into physician misconduct in prescription drug abuse cases to the state Attorney General’s office.

The board supported proposed legislation to upgrade California’s prescription drug monitoring system, the article notes. The measures also would require coroners to report deaths due to prescription drug overdoses, and would give the board new authority to stop a physician from prescribing in some cases.

Last year, the newspaper conducted an investigation that concluded a small number of doctors are linked to a large percentage of prescription drug-related deaths in Southern California. The newspaper found that in almost half of the 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs in four Southern California counties, those who died had a doctor’s prescription for at least one drug that caused or contributed to the death. In many cases, deaths were caused by use of multiple drugs, sometimes prescribed by more than one doctor. In some cases, prescription drugs were mixed with alcohol or illicit drugs.

The investigation found 71 doctors, or 0.1 percent of all practicing physicians in the four counties, wrote prescriptions for drugs that caused or contributed to 298 deaths. Each of those doctors prescribed drugs to three or more patients who died. Four of the doctors had 10 or more patients who died from prescription drug overdoses.