Death Certificate Project Charges 9 CA Doctors With Opioid Overprescribing

In California, nine doctors have been charged with overprescribing opioids along with other violations after a years-long investigation into their prescribing habits by a controversial state project. Dubbed the “Death Certificate Project,” the state scans death certificates to find people whose death was caused by prescription drugs such as opioids or benzos. The state then finds out what doctors prescribed a controlled substance to that patient within three years of death. (The doctors may not have been the current provider of prescriptions at the time of death, however.) After implementing the highly controversial “Death Certificate Project,” California officials have charged nine doctors with overprescribing opioids. The state's prescription drug database, CURES (California Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System), flagged the doctors for investigation alongside hundreds of their peers who were presumably cleared from trouble. In the complaints, the Project’s complaints cite "gross negligence," "furnishing dangerous drugs without examination," "unprofessional conduct," and "inadequate record keeping." Several of the doctors under investigation didn’t use the state's prescription database, CURES. While…

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Doctors Seeing Increased Scrutiny and Punishment for Reckless Opiate Prescribing

We always are paying attention to the critical juncture of the opiate epidemic that occurs when a patient is given a prescription to "legally" obtain the addictive and potentially deadly drugs. Increasingly, physicians assistants are getting ensnared in the corrupt prescribing of narcotic drugs, and this is somewhat expected considering their access to granting the drugs combined with the incredible sums that illicit prescribing can generate. The doctors themselves are the ones that we feel particular disdain for, because they have so much more training and have taken the hippocratic oath not to harm their patiens. We’ve written about Lisa Tseng getting arrested right at her office located in a Rowland Heights strip mall in Los Angeles and felt that it was a significant "shot fired" against one of the most guilty perpetrators of the opiate addiction and overdose crisis: the greedy MDs who prescribe addicted men and women unbelievable quantities of opiate drugs. Just a few days ago, in the middle class Long Island neighborhood of Baldwin, Dr. Anand Persaud…

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Should Doctors Focus Less on Patient Satisfaction to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse?

Far too many health care providers are more concerned with patient satisfaction than they are with protecting patients from the risk of prescription drug abuse and addiction. This attitude is enforced by current teaching in pain management, which is largely based on a concern for providing relief for patients with chronic pain. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that roughly 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Healthcare providers have long struggled with the challenges involved with the long-term treatment of pain, including the need for escalating doses as patients become tolerant to medication and the risk of addiction. Doctors and Hospitals Worry about Negative Patient Feedback According to Sherry Green, CEO of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL), education for prescribers needs to focus less on patient satisfaction and more on improvements in patient functioning. Green also points out that with physician ratings available online, some doctors feel pressured to give patients the drugs they ask for rather than risk a negative rating. Hospitals…

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Florida Governor Declares Victory Over Pill Mills

It's been a year since law enforcement agencies in Florida began to crack down on "pill mills" that were responsible for the widespread distribution of prescription painkillers like oxycodone (marketed under the names OxyContin, Roxicodone and Oxyfast). This week, Governor Scott is calling the efforts of regional law enforcement teams a success, with 213 pill mill clinics shut down in the past year. The Governor also stated that nearly half a million pills were taken off the streets and more than 2000 drug-related arrests were made. Despite this impressive arrest record, Florida still appears to have more work to do in ridding itself of its prescription drug problem. The number of statewide deaths from prescription drugs dropped only 8 percent between 2010 and 2011. Prescription drugs still kill more people than illegal drugs in the state.  Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi admits that Florida still has a long way to go in the fight against prescription drug abuse. By 2010, Florida had earned a reputation as the nation's center…

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CVS Blacklists Florida Doctors Who Write Too Many Painkiller Prescriptions

In a move that could set a nationwide precedent, CVS recently sent letters to a group of high-prescribing Florida doctors advising them that the company’s pharmacies will no longer fill their prescriptions for painkillers and other dangerous drugs.  According to the Orlando Sentinel, the action has been described as blacklisting by some of the doctors and at least one doctor who received a letter has responded with legal action against CVS. In a prepared statement, CVS stated that it informed a small group of Florida doctors that their prescriptions for Schedule II narcotics will no longer be filled.  The company was not specific about how many doctors have been notified but stated that the action was taken in the interest of keeping controlled substances out of the wrong hands and preventing drug abuse.  CVS operates more than 700 pharmacies in Florida. Due to a lack of prescription regulation in Florida, pain clinics have sprouted up throughout the state that freely dispense prescriptions for addictive prescription drugs like oxycodone (OxyContin)…

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OxyContin Ring Sells 1 Million Pills on the Street

In Los Angeles, 14 people have been charged with running a scheme to obtain OxyContin pills through insurance fraud and distribute them on the street for millions of dollars in profits. The drug distribution ring included two doctors and the operators of a clinic owned by Lake Medical Group.  Members of the ring are suspected of reselling more than 1 million OxyContin pills on the street. According to federal officials, the clinic's doctors wrote fraudulent prescriptions for the powerful painkiller and billed Medicare and Medical.  Most of the prescriptions were written for patients who did not need a painkiller. Members of the ring are also alleged to have committed identity theft and used stolen Medicare beneficiary information to obtain OxyContin.  Among those charged were Dr. Morris Halfnon, aged 88, Dr. Eleanor Santiago, aged 73, and pharmacist Theodore Yoon. The clinic used recruiters, referred to as "cappers," who offered Medicare and Medi-Cal patients up to $500 to fill prescriptions for OxyContin at local pharmacies, including Yoon's.  Runners escorted patients to…

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Doctor’s Role in Fatal Prescription Drug Overdose

In Orange County, California, coroner records show that accidental prescription drug overdoses are on the rise, from 130 in 2006 to 266 in 2009.  One of these fatalities was Jarrod Barber of Laguna Niguel, who overdosed at age 19 on a combination of: Opana - a powerful narcotic painkiller Seroquel - an anti-psychotic medication and Klonopin -  (Clonazepam) an anti-anxietymedication According to a report in The Orange County Register, Barber began to smoke excessive amounts of marijuana and abuse prescription drugs following the cancer death of a close friend.   He obtained prescriptions for Clonazepam and Seroquel from Dr. Paul D. Corona, a Laguna Niguel doctor who has built a practice by writing prescriptions for mood-stabilizing drugs. Corona, a general practitioner who now specializes in the treatment of mood disorders, is a self-described "guru" who promotes the use of mood-stabilizers for the treatment of substance abusers.  A former radio personality and author, Corona's message is that psychotropic medications can be used to treat a wide variety of physical and mental…

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Doctors Call for an End to Long-Term Prescriptions for Opioid Painkillers

In response to the growing problem of prescription painkiller abuse in the U.S., three California doctors are calling on their colleagues to rethink the use of narcotic prescription drugs as medication for patients who experience chronic pain.  In the U.S., opioid painkillers including OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin are now prescribed more than any other drugs.  According to the doctors, up to 20% of patient visits to physicians result in a prescription for one of these opioid drugs. Dr. Deborah Grady, Dr. Seth Berkowitz and Dr. Mitchell Katz have published their plea as an editorial in the Archives of Internal Medicine.  The doctors state that 20-40% of adults report non-cancer chronic pain and that opioids have become the most common form of treatment even though few studies are available that examine the use of these drugs for the long-term treatment of pain.  In fact, a large body of statistical evidence shows the harm these drugs can do.  According to Dr. Katz, the use of prescription opioid painkillers results in more…

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