Report: Calif. Medical Board Oversight of Risky Prescribing Is Lacking
Patients are put at risk by physicians who overprescribe medications because of a lack of oversight by the Medical Board of California, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
For the investigation, the Times examined medical board records and county coroners' files from 2005 through 2011.
The investigation found that at least 30 patients in Southern California died of prescription drug overdoses or related causes while their physicians were being investigated by the board. 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.
Response to Investigation
In response to the findings, state officials asked the Legislature to require county coroners to report all prescription drug-related deaths to the medical board.
Rick Chavez -- a pain management physician in Redondo Beach -- said that overprescribing is a common problem in California and that oversight is inadequate. He said, "We have doctors out there doing things that no oneÂ is monitoring," adding, "It's scary."
Sharon Levine -- president of the medical board and an executive at Kaiser Permanente -- declined to be interviewed. In addition, Linda Whitney -- executive director of the board -- and board staff members declined to comment.In response to emailed questions, board officials said that their "highest priority and primary mission is consumer protection" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/9). 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.