This past Sunday, the LA Times ran a searing and exhaustively researched article on prescription drug abuse, called “Dying for Relief.” This past Monday, as is the fashion among legislators nationwide, a California lawmaker loudly reacted to the article and grabbed a headline of his own.
Ordinarily, a legislator’s jumping on the bandwagon after a big article runs in the paper isn’t news. But here it is, because in response to the national public health problem of prescription drug abuse, California State Senator Curren Price, Jr. is introducing legislation that targets healthcare providers for law enforcement action. A law enforcement approach to a public health problem typically scores political points and funds new multiagency task forces, while doing nothing to actually address the problem. And innocent people – here, legitimate healthcare providers writing legal prescriptions for approved drugs – get steamrolled in the name of public safety.
Price’s idea isn’t so outrageous: He wants coroner’s offices in California to automatically report patient deaths to the California Medical Board whenever a coroner concludes that prescription drugs caused or contributed to someone’s death.
But the devil will be in the details, because the Medical Board is under tremendous pressure to “crack down” or “do something” about Rx abuse and suspected corrupt healthcare providers. All this while California law doesn’t even define “overprescribing,” for example.
PAINKILLER LAW will be watching very closely for the language and implications of the Price bill. I’m concerned that whereas a coroner’s findings may be circumspect and sober, the Medical Board will eagerly grab the autopsy report and form a posse to go after the “bad guy.” Senator Price needs to be alert to the pressure the Board will put on him and his committee to give the Board too much latitude in investigating, accusing or proceeding against healthcare providers who’ve written prescriptions for potentially addictive drugs. The offense itself is not clearly defined, yet law enforcement will want broad discretion to target it. That’s putting the cart before the horse.
Contact PAINKILLER LAW: CRIMINAL LAW COMPLIANCE FOR HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS, for a free consultation. We want to help you verify, achieve and maintain compliance with the criminal laws of prescribing for Schedule II through V drugs.
213.293.3737 firstname.lastname@example.org Meister Law Offices