The chairman of the Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee is asking the drug company that makes OxyContin to turn over information about Nevada doctors suspected of overprescribing the powerful pain medication.
Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, wrote a letter to the president of the drugmaker Purdue Pharma LP on Friday, saying the company has an ethical duty to provide the information to the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners.
“I have been concerned for some time about the mounting death toll related to certain addictive drugs, such as OxyContin,” he wrote in the letter first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Segerblom made the request days after two California lawmakers did the same based on a Los Angeles Times article that said the company has a database of 1,800 doctors who showed signs of dangerous prescribing but has referred only 154 cases to authorities since 2002.
“I am dismayed by the findings of the Los Angeles Times investigation that revealed that although Purdue Pharma has compiled a database of hundreds of doctors who are suspected of recklessly prescribing OxyContin, it has been unwilling to alert authorities in each state about its findings,” he said. “I am also requesting that the criteria utilized by Purdue Pharma in determining signs of reckless/dangerous prescribing of this narcotic be sent, as well.”
The drugmaker, based in Stamford, Conn., did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
OxyContin is a trade name for the drug oxycodone hydrochloride, which is prescribed for chronic pain.
Douglas Cooper, executive director of the state medical board, said that in addition to the names of physicians, he also would need the information that raised red flags about them before he could investigate. If the information was provided and was the basis for a complaint, he said the board would open an investigation.
In 2007, Purdue Pharma paid $600 million to settle claims that it misled doctors about the drug’s risk of addiction.
Larry Pinson, executive secretary of the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy, said there is no question that prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in the United States. Pinson said 80 percent of manufactured opiates in the world, which includes OxyContin, are consumed in the U.S.
Pinson said Nevada has one of the longest-running prescription monitoring programs in the country, which identifies consumers who are “doctor-shopping” to get prescription drugs. Doctor shopping is a felony in Nevada, he said.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report last year called prescription drug overdoses an epidemic. The CDC said the unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the U.S. parallels a 300 percent rise since 1999 in the sale of strong painkillers such as OxyContin.
A 2013 CDC report showed that Nevada had the third-highest prescription drug overdose deaths in 2008. In 2010, Nevada was tied for second among states in the amount of prescription painkillers sold per 10,000 people.
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