Medical Board of California accused of laxity in doctor oversight


One by one, grieving parents tell a joint committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection the horrible deaths their children suffered from overdosing on prescription drugs doctors gave them.

Joey Rovero of San Ramon had taken a road trip to Los Angeles from his Arizona college because he and his friends knew of a "pill mill" that freely gave out prescriptions for cash with no questions asked.

"He was prescribed 90 30-milligram-strength Oxycodone tablets, 90 Soma pills and 30 Xanax pills, the first time he'd been in to see that doctor," said April Rovero, Joey's mother. Joey Rovero died of a drug overdose.

Prosecutors are trying to tie Rovero's case to Dr. Lisa Tseng, who has so far been charged with three counts of murder, but may be involved in at least 19 deaths due to overprescribing narcotics.

Parents accuse the California Medical Board of being too lax on doctors it's supposed to oversee.

The Medical Board of California says it does investigate. The problem is someone has to file a complaint first.

"Complaints regarding prescription-drug-related offenses can be somewhat difficult for the Board to obtain," said Dr. Sharon Levine, president of the Medical Board of California.

And due to budget cuts, an outdated database called the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), which flags doctors for too many prescriptions, is down to only one person tracking the entire state. Supporters say that could be funded by adding $9 a year to a doctor's license.

"The system needs a stable source of sufficient funding," said Levine.

While showing pictures of their loved ones, families rallied outside the hearing calling for the elimination of the Medical Board and the creation of more effective oversight.

"Our nation is really truly in crisis and we have to make the steps and do what we need to do to change this to help our youth," said grieving mother Susan Klimusko.

By law, the existence of the California Medical Board is set to expire next year. But lawmakers have the power to keep it going.

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