A California lawmaker is pushing for stricter oversight of prescription drug deaths. The proposal is all about accountability. It would add a little more work to coroner's, but hopes to better identify doctor's who may be harming patients.
The drugs may be legal, but they can also be deadly. The Centers for Disease Control shows the number of prescription drug overdoses in the United States has tripled since 1990. Senator Curren Price Rr. (D-Los Angeles), wants to take a better look inside these deaths.
"I think it's a good thing to know what the prescription practices are. You can hardly fault them for wanting to know that information," says Dr. David Hadden, Fresno County Coroner.
A bill will soon be introduced that would require coroner's like Dr. David Hadden, to report all prescription drug deaths to the state's Medical Board. The reports would help detect doctors whose prescribing practices may be putting their patients in danger.
Dr. Hadden says, "The requirement to report it to the board is a very small one in terms of our workload."
According to reports from the Fresno County Coroner's office, 21 people died of prescription drug overdoses in 2011. In some cases, the medication was combined with illegal drugs or alcohol.
"We have not identified any doctor that is over prescribing in this county."
But the director of the Eleventh Hour rehab center in Fresno believes otherwise.
Melissa Capece Fairless is the director at the center. She says, "A lot of times what we're seeing is that they're over medicated. They're on Somas, they're on Vicodins, they're on Xanax and they're basically a walking zombie."
Fairless has worked with addicts for 15 years and has seen a huge increase in prescription medication dependency over the last decade. She says over-prescribing has reached epidemic levels, and wants doctors to be held accountable.
"If they can look and see if there is a correlation between over prescribing and deaths, I think we need to go there, and I think we need to find out for sure."
Dr. Hadden says none of these drug deaths have thrown up a red flag as far as doctor's over-prescribing. The number of prescription deaths in Fresno County from 2010 to 2011 actually dropped 63%. Some argue that medications could have played a role in many other deaths, but might not have been accounted for.
Senator Price will be introducing the bill sometime early next year.