When Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley charged a doctor with second degree murder in connection with three overdose deaths, it ramped up law enforcement’s role in addressing the issue.
Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Teng was charged in connection with the overdose deaths of three patients.
Cooley issued a statement that said in part, “Prescription drug overdose deaths have reached epidemic proportions. Enough is enough. Doctors are not above the law.”
116 million Americans have chronic or acute pain. Often pain is treated with pain medication, but law enforcement has been looking hard at doctors who may be overprescribing those powerful medicines.
It remains to be seen whether this is an isolated arrest or the beginning of a wider crackdown in Los Angeles County.
Around the country, the war on pain doctors and so-called “pill mills” continues.
In Kentucky, a bill that would strengthen state enforcement of pain medication abuse was approved by the State House Judiciary Committee. The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, would move overview of the KASPER Drug Monitoring System to the Attorney General’s office.
The bill also demands that Kentucky pain doctors register with KASPER so that the state is aware of physician prescribing patterns. Currently only about one-third of Kentucky pain clinics are registered with KASPER.
Meanwhile in Florida, Attorney General Pam Bondi appears to be making progress in the state’s battle against pill mills. This national debate about the over-prescription of pain medications really started in Florida. The Sunshine State reports that there appears to have been a dramatic reduction in pain medication prescriptions. In 2010, Florida had 98 out of the top 100 doctors responsible for the largest amount of oxycodone prescription offices. Currently, the state has only 13 of the top 100 prescribers.
Some Florida pharmacies are denying medication to pain patients, even if they have a valid prescription. CVS “blacklisted” some pain doctors and Walgreens notified physicians it will not fill prescriptions for painkillers if certain guidelines for the pain medications are not met.
“What is transpiring in Florida is that certain pharmacies and pharmacists have decided to act as vigilantes in the hysteria driven war on pill mills and pain medications,” the Florida Society of Pain Management Providers said in a statement. “In so doing, those pharmacists have determined to co-opt the role of the physician. That type of behavior should not be tolerated.”
The increasing emphasis on pain medications is understandable. The Centers for Disease Control reports that prescription for opiod medications increased six fold in the ten year period ending in 2007.
By 2008, 15,000 U.S. overdose deaths were attributed to prescription pain medications.