LOS ANGELES — The California Medical Board is asking for the public's help as it combats reckless prescribing by doctors.
Officials are encouraging people whose relatives died of drug overdoses to contact the board if they believe excessive prescribing or other physician misconduct contributed to the deaths, the Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/WQgXKx ).
Under state law, the agency has seven years from the time of the alleged misconduct to take disciplinary action against a doctor.
Linda K. Whitney, the board's executive director, told the Times investigators would review autopsies and other records on specific overdose deaths outlined in recent months by the newspaper.
Reports by the Times have documented the connection between doctors' prescribing practices and fatal overdoses involving OxyContin, Vicodin and other narcotic painkillers.
Analysis of coroners' records found that in nearly half of the prescription drug deaths in four Southern California counties from 2006 through 2011, medications prescribed by doctors caused or contributed to the overdose.
Seventy-one doctors were associated with a disproportionate number of deaths, The Times found. For example, 16 patients of a Huntington Beach pain specialist died of overdoses during the five year span after taking medications he prescribed. At least 15 patients of a San Diego County physician died during that time, records showed.
There is no evidence that board officials knew about the deaths.
Whitney said the board would also like to receive reports from county coroners on all prescription overdose deaths. Democratic state Sen. Curren Price, responding to the Times coverage, said he would introduce legislation that would require the coroner reports.
The Medical Board licenses and oversees California physicians.
Members of the public can report concerns about excessive prescribing by calling 1-800-633-2322 or filling out and mailing a complaint form, which can be downloaded from the agency's website, http://www.mbc.ca.gov.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com