New plan in the fight against prescription drug abuse

FRESNO, Calif.

A Southern California lawmaker has announced plans to introduce legislation that would require coroners to report deaths caused by prescription drug overdoses. State Senator Curren Price of Los Angeles wants coroners to report any prescription drug related deaths to the Medical Board of California. The effort would help identify doctors who may be contributing to drug addiction, but Fresno County Coroner Dr. David Hadden expressed mixed feelings about the idea. "Now, I have no problem with reporting with any agency that wants the information. That's basically what we're here for, to gather information. But do I think it's an important issue in this community? No," said Hadden.

Price's announcement came after a Los Angeles Times investigation found nearly half of accidental deaths involving prescription medications in four Southern California counties involved people who had a prescription for a drug that at least in part caused their death.

In Fresno County, Dr. Hadden says he only sees a handful of prescription drug overdoses a year. Prescription drug abuse, on the other hand, is a different story. "We think prescription drug abuse is the single biggest epidemic facing our kids that no one is talking about," said Lynne Ashbeck, a Clovis City Council Member and board member for P.A.I.N, or Prescription Abusers In Need.

Fresno orthopedic surgeon and President of the Fresno Madera Medical Society Dr. Sergio Ilic believes legislation could be a good idea. "I believe there are a number of physicians that in my opinion, over-prescribe narcotic medications to people who don't really need it as much as they think they do," said Dr. Ilic.

Dr. Ilic believes legislation could make doctors more cautious when prescribing the drugs. Though he supports the idea of reporting deaths to the state, he doesn't support legislation that would lead to physicians losing their licenses.

Both he and Dr. Hadden were also quick to point out it's not always possible to tell when abuse leads to death. In some cases, it can be an intentional overdose or an accident involving a non-abuser.

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