L.A. Times on prescription drug overdose

November 11, 2012, 6:30 pm

The Los Angeles Times Sunday ran an investigative report into deaths from prescription drug overdose, which now kills more people in the United States than heroin and cocaine combined.

Cross-referencing coroner’s reports with data from the state’s Controlled Substances Utilization Review and Evaluation System, they identified 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs in 4 Southern California counties from 2006 to 2011. In almost half these cases, drugs prescribed to the decedent was thought to have caused or contributed to the death. A small number of physicians wrote prescriptions for drugs associated with a disproportionate percentage of these fatalities.

Unfortunately the article does not into clinical detail about individual cases, probably because the reporters did not have access to medical records of individual victims. Although a video sidebar interviews pain specialists about the difficulties of their practice, the article itself gives mainly case histories from the family’s point of view. I would be interested to know if the physicians involved with a number of these deaths had especially busy practices, and if they had followed generally accept guidelines for prescribing opiate analgesics to chronic pain patients. Without those specifics, the article comes very close to doctor bashing.


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