Lawmaker Plans Bill Requiring Reporting of Rx-Related Deaths
On Monday, Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) said heÂ will introduce legislation that would require coroners to report all prescription drug-related deaths to the Medical Board of California, the Los Angeles Times reports.
State law requires that coroners report prescription drug-related deaths to the board only if they suspect "gross negligence" on the part of the physician.
Price's announcement is in response to a recent Times analysis of accidental deaths linked to prescription drug overdoses in four Southern California counties (Girion/Glover, Los Angeles Times, 11/13).
Details of Analysis
The Times analyzed cause-of-death findings from coroners' offices from 2006 through 2011 and identified 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs during that time.
The deaths occurred in:
- Los Angeles;
- San Diego; and
- Ventura counties.
The analysis found that in 1,762 -- or 47% -- of the deaths, a drug prescribed by a physician was the sole cause or a contributing cause of death.
The Times also found that 71 -- or 0.1% -- of all practicing physicians in the four counties were associated with a disproportionate number of fatal prescription overdoses. Those 71 doctors were linked to 298 -- or 17% -- of the total deaths studied (California Healthline, 11/12).
Goals of Legislation
Price said, "There appears to be a disconnect between coroners and the medical board," adding, "Hopefully, legislation will tighten that up and provide the kind of accountability we all expect."
He said that although there might have been legitimate reasons for physicians to prescribe the drugs in the cases cited by the Times, there still is "cause for some further review."
Medical Board Seeks Requirement
At an Oct. 25 meeting of the Medical Board of California, Executive Director Linda Whitney said that a lack of information from coroners might be hindering the board's ability to scrutinize physicians' prescribing practices.
The board voted to request that the Legislature require coroners to report all prescription drug-related deaths.In a Nov. 1 report sent to the Legislature, the board wrote that such a requirement "would allow the board to review the [coroner's] documentation and determine if the prescribing physician was treating in a correct and appropriate manner" (Los Angeles Times, 11/13). 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.