Legal drugs, deadly outcomes | Los Angeles Times

By Scott Glover & Lisa Girion

Prescription overdoses kill more people than heroin and cocaine. An L.A. Times review of coroners’ records finds that drugs prescribed by a
small number of doctors caused or contributed to a disproportionate number of deaths…A Los Angeles Times investigation has found that in nearly half of the accidental deaths from prescription drugs in four Southern California counties, the deceased had a doctor’s prescription for at least one drug that caused or contributed to the death.

Reporters identified a total of 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs from 2006 through 2011 in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and San Diego counties.

An examination of coroners’ records found that:

  • In 1,762 of those cases — 47% — drugs for which the deceased had a prescription were the sole cause or a contributing cause of death.
  • A small cadre of doctors was associated with a disproportionate number of those fatal overdoses. Seventy-one — 0.1% of all practicing doctors in the four counties — wrote prescriptions for drugs that caused or contributed to 298 deaths. That is 17% of the total linked to doctors’ prescriptions.
  • Each of those 71 physicians prescribed drugs to three or more patients who died.

Experts said the findings challenge the prevailing view of what is driving the surge in overdose deaths and should prompt closer scrutiny of doctors and their prescribing practices. Read more…

Source: Los Angeles Times

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