Consumer Watchdog Seeks Stronger Oversight of Rx Overprescribing
The letter was prompted by a Times investigation that found the state's oversight of such physicians to be lacking (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 2/7).
According to the Times investigation, at least 30 patients in Southern California died of prescription drug overdoses or related causes while their physicians were being investigated by the Medical Board of California. Eventually, the board sanctioned all but one of the 12 doctors who were investigated, and some of the physicians were criminally charged, according to the study.
Physicians were reprimanded or placed on probation in 80% of the 190 cases of overprescribing filed by the board since 2005. However, physicians in most of those cases were permitted to continue writing prescriptions with few or no restrictions.
According to the study, the patients of eight physicians disciplined for excessive prescribing later died of drug overdoses or related causes. Prescriptions written by those physicians caused or were linked to a total of 19 deaths (California Healthline, 1/15).
Details of Consumer Watchdog Letter
In the letter, Jamie Court -- president of Consumer Watchdog -- and Carmen Balber -- the group's executive director -- called on the Legislature to hold hearings on state oversight of physicians' prescribing practices and to re-examine the role of the state medical board (Payers & Providers, 2/7).
Consumer Watchdog called for legislation that would:
- Require regulators to routinely search the statewide prescription pain medication database -- called the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System -- to identify and stop physicians who overprescribe; Â and
- Require random drug testing for physicians.
The letter added that "an overhaul of the doctor disciplinary system is in order."
If state lawmakers do not take action, Consumer Watchdog said it would work to put such reforms on an upcoming ballot.
Reaction to Letter
Assembly member Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park) -- chair of the Assembly committee that oversees the medical board -- said that the issues raised in the letter will be considered in a previously scheduled March 11 hearing.
Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) -- who chairs the Senate oversight committee -- said that "overdose deaths and overprescribing of drugs is something everyone realizes is a real public health issue now."In a statement, the California Medical Association said it supported efforts to reduce drug overdoses, but it did not comment on the specific proposals (Los Angeles Times, 2/7). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.