Steinberg Seeks To Boost Board’s Oversight of Risky Prescribing Habits
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has said that he will support legislation that would give the Medical Board of California more investigators and more authority to stop physicians who overprescribe medications, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Steinberg said he is acting in response to an investigation by the TimesÂ on the roleÂ that physicians and pharmacists play in prescription drug-related deaths in the state (Girion/Glover, Los Angeles Times, 1/12).
The Times investigation found that the state medical board's oversight ofÂ overprescribingÂ practices is lacking.
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 (California Healthline, 12/10/12).
Steinberg said he will work with Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) -- chair of the medical board's oversight committee -- to develop a "legislative package" to address gaps in oversight of physicians' prescribing methods.
He also said that he would support a bill that would require state coroners to report to the medical board all fatal overdoses that resulted from prescription drugs so that the boardÂ can investigate whether overprescribingÂ practicesÂ contributed to the deaths.Steinberg said lawmakers must act "as quickly as we can" to curb overprescribing. He said, "Ultimately, it is our responsibility to protect the public" (Los Angeles Times, 1/12). 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.