More Doctors Being Charged With Deaths As A Result of Over-Prescribing Opioids
Twenty years after prescription painkillers began fueling the opioid epidemic, physicians are increasingly being held accountable for the over-prescribing of drugs.
Under the umbrella of the Controlled Substances Act, doctors are being prosecuted by the Drug Enforcement Agency – accused of knowingly and intentionally prescribing painkillers outside of what is deemed appropriate in medical practice, for non-medical purposes. According to National Practitioner Data Bank, between 2011-2014, actions against physicians taken by the DEA increased four-fold.
Dr. Hsiu-Ying Tseng was the first physician to be convicted of murder in 2015 after she prescribed opioids to a patient that she suspected was addicted. She was given a sentence of 30 years to life in prison. According to the American Journal of Medicine, Tseng had been alerted by authorities more than a dozen times after her patients had died, and yet did not change her prescribing practices.
A Texas doctor, Howard Gregg Diamond, is also facing charges for illegal opioid distribution that was linked to seven deaths. The indictment notes that Diamond wrote prescriptions that contained large amounts of fentanyl sans a legitimate medical Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid many times more powerful than morphine or heroin.
Also, Diamond wrote prescriptions for multiple potent drugs for many of the patients who overdosed, and according to the indictment, Diamond was illegally receiving money from Medicare via misrepresentations and violations of rules.
Another physician from Oklahoma, Dr. Regan Nichols, was charged with multiple counts of second-degree murder after prescribing a “horrifyingly excessive amount of opioid medications” according to the state’s Attorney General Mike Hunter.
Reports from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner reveal that all five deaths were caused by multiple drug toxicity – all patients had been prescribed a lethal combination of painkillers, benzodiazepines, and a muscle relaxer. In total, Nichols prescriber over 3 million dosages units of dangerous and addictive controlled substances.
However, the Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing content that well-meaning doctors are a big part of the problem, more so that those who intentionally over-prescribe to benefit in some way.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology