California Medical Board May Expire If It Doesn’t Improve Regulation of Prescription Mills
In California, the state Medical Board has the responsibility of overseeing more than 100,000 physicians. Part of the job of the Medical Board of California is to respond to complaints about doctors who run prescription mills and put their patients in danger of wrongful death due to overdose, explains a lawyer. The Medical Board is also expected to take action, disciplining doctors or even stripping them of their licenses if they do not live up to their professional obligations.
“Lawmakers believe the Medical Board is falling short in some important ways,” explained California wrongful death lawyer James Ballidis, “and are threatening to terminate the board if it fails to strengthen its regulation of prescription mills and the physicians who run them.”
Recently, the Los Angeles Times indicated that legislators are considering allowing the board to “sunset” next year. Lawmakers are threatening to allow the Medical Board to expire if it does not become more responsive in closing prescription mills and preventing wrongful deaths due to overdose. In particular, the board needs to make some improvements in the manner in which it investigates and polices physicians who prescribe drugs to multiple patients. The threats from lawmakers come in the wake of recent tragedies wherein patients died from overdoses of physician-prescribed medications.
There are prescription mills in California where unscrupulous doctors prescribe painkillers and other highly addictive medications to patients who do not need the drugs and are abusing them. Patients in the state have died as a result of doctors who operate these prescription mills, and, in some cases, their families’ lawyers have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the doctors. California lawmakers are trying to force the Medical Board to be more aggressive in addressing this dangerous practice.
The Medical Board has not done a very good job thus far in protecting patients from doctors who are dangerous in the way they prescribe pills. For example, the Los Angeles Times reports that patients died of overdoses after taking medications prescribed by doctors who the Medical Board was investigating at the time. This occurred because investigations conducted by the board can drag on for months or even years.
Not only do lawmakers want the Medical Board to be more proactive and efficient in investigating physicians who may be abusing their positions, but several legislators also believe the board needs to make better use of their authority to issue interim suspension orders. An interim suspension order would temporarily halt the right of a doctor to prescribe medication in egregious cases. This would stop doctors who are operating prescription mills immediately as they would lose their ability to prescribe until an investigation had been completed.
The actions of lawmakers are unusual in this case because it is rare for legislators to be so public in expressing their concerns about consumer boards. However, the stakes are very high in these types of cases since people are dying in California from prescription drug abuse. An estimated 3,733 prescription-related deaths occurred between 2006 and 2011, and around half of these fatalities involved at least one drug that a physician had prescribed.
The focus on the Medical Board is just part of California’s efforts to prevent patient wrongful death due to overdose and to deal with what has become a very public epidemic since the Los Angeles Times published a series of articles linking doctors to overdose deaths, explains a lawyer.
Last April, for example, a broad package of bills related to curbing prescription drug abuse won approval from a key committee within the Senate. The proposed laws include a bill to upgrade the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, CURES. Similar bills have failed in the past, but sponsors are pushing for the law again this year and using the press to try to drum up public support to place pressure on legislators.
While it remains unclear how the medical board will respond to the threats of lawmakers or whether any of the bills will pass to reduce prescription drug deaths, lawmakers are at least trying to take positive steps to cut the number of prescription-drug related deaths in the state of California. Hopefully, some progress will be made and patients will be safer in the future.
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