A total of 23 physicians face new disciplinary actions by the Medical Board of California after being flagged because a patient they had prescribed opioids to suffered a fatal overdose.
California’s Death Certificate Project, launched three years ago, was designed to curb the nation’s growing opioid epidemic that accidentally kills thousands each year. The project takes death certificates in which prescription opioids were listed as the cause, then matches them with the provider – or providers – who prescribed any controlled substance to that patient within three years of death. The provider is flagged regardless of whether the particular drug he or she prescribed caused the patient’s death or whether the doctor prescribed the lethal dose.
Beginning in late 2015, California’s Medical Board staff began reviewing 2,694 certificates of death from 2012 through 2013, and found 2,256 matches in the state’s prescription drug database, CURES (California Controlled Substances Utilization Review and Evaluation System). The reports were sent to medical peer reviewers who selected 522 as warranting an investigation.
The first review resulted in September in the discipline of 12 physicians. The latest review brought actions against an additional 11 physicians, bringing the total to 23.
Among the causes for discipline were accusations such as prescribing controlled substances for family members with whom the physician did not have a patient-physician relationship; prescribing dangerous medication to an alcoholic without referring the patient for alcoholism treatment; failing to order drug tests to ensure the patient was not abusing other substances; and prescribing ultimately lethal doses of the fentanyl patch to a patient known to be taking benzodiazepines, which can have fatal consequences.
In one example, the medical board’s complaint against San Diego physician Dr. Frank Gilman is 63 pages long, including nearly six pages of controlled substances that were prescribed for a single patient, most of which were prescribed by Dr. Gilman. Two of his patients died from drug overdoses, the report states.
Source: MedPage Today