It looks like the heat is beginning to ratchet up in California on Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, a widely used and highly addictive opioid painkiller.
You may remember the National Pain Report story about California lawmakers and health officials being upset with Purdue for not releasing the list of 59 doctors in the state that the drug maker believes have risky prescribing habits.
The story broke in the Los Angeles Times. The Times said the company has a database of 1,800 doctors nationwide who showed signs of “dangerous prescribing”.
The interim Director of the Medical Board of California sent Purdue a letter dated September 4 asking for the list.
“The (Medical) Board is requesting the names of the physicians, as well as the reason each physician was added to the database and suspected of recklessly prescribing,” wrote Kimberly Kirchmeyer.
Her letter asked for a list of names by September 18.
Last month, Purdue met with the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners and provided a list of suspect doctors in that state who were red flagged as over-prescribing OxyContin. The company maintains the names have always been available to law enforcement and public health officials.
“The names of these prescribers have been and continue to be available to appropriate law enforcement and regulatory authorities upon request,” the company said in a statement to National Pain Report.
California State Senator Ted Lieu urged Purdue to release the names of California doctors, which resulted in a meeting between Purdue and the California Medical Board. But still, the names of the physicians haven’t been released.
In a letter Purdue sent to Lieu, dated August 21st, the company said it doesn’t want to publicly release the doctors’ names, but asserted the names are available to law enforcement and regulatory authorities upon request.
Senator Lieu told us that he would continue to press Purdue to release the names of the physicians.
As concerns about prescription pain medications mount, state and federal health officials are under pressure to do more to fight the abuse.
In 2010, over 16,000 Americans died from painkiller overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that deaths from painkillers among women had risen 400 percent in the last decade.
CDC officials say more than 70 percent of the overdose deaths were unintentional. In many cases, a combination of drugs was involved, such as painkillers taken with tranquilizers.
What the real mortality numbers are in California has Lieu asking questions. He’s introduced a bill that will require county coroners to inform the California Medical Board of any death related to pain medication, which will give the board information that it can investigate.
“It could help find doctors who are over prescribing,” said Lieu.