Consumer Watchdog Campaign: Not An April Fools’ Joke: Groups Call On Medical Board to Disclose Names of 2,000 California Doctors With A Current Substance Abuse Problem

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SANTA MONICA, CA – The proponent of a ballot measure that would require doctors to undergo random drug testing called on the California Medical Board today to disclose the names of the 2,000 California physicians it has acknowledged have an active drug or alcohol addiction problem.
The Medical Board acknowledged that 1-2% of California doctors are addicted to drugs or alcohol and need treatment at any given time.  With roughly 100,000 active physicians in California, by the Medical Board’s own count there are approximately 2,000 California doctors with a current drug or alcohol addiction.
See the NBC Bay Area story:!/on-air/as-seen-on/Reality-Check–Patient-Safety-Act/252992811
“Most Californians would undoubtedly believe that thousands of drunk or high doctors pose a serious threat to public health and safety,” wrote Bob Pack, proponent of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, and Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.  “In the interest of patient safety we ask you to: Immediately disclose the names of the 2,000 physicians in California with a drug or alcohol problem, and if they are currently practicing; identify what the Medical Board is doing to protect their patients from harm; and, release any internal studies or reports you have used to determine the number of physicians with addiction problems.”
The letter continued: “A review of public reports of physician disciplinary actions on the Medical Board’s website reveals that, since 2008, just 149 doctors were disciplined for self-use of drugs or alcohol, 104 for DUIs and 27 for being under the influence at work. It is hard to believe your assurances that the Medical Board takes substance abuse seriously when, over six years, you disciplined only a small fraction of the 2,000 doctors with an addiction problem at any given time.”
Download the letter:
The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act would require random drug testing of physicians, just as airline pilots, bus drivers, train engineers and others in safety-sensitive positions already undergo.
Pack and Balber wrote, “The Medical Board’s sorry record of disciplining doctor addicts is particularly troubling considering the broad disregard with which the physician lobby treats this serious threat to the public health and safety.  In a radio interview on 89.3 KPPC last week Benjamin Fenton, representing physicians, suggested that doctors’ exalted status in society somehow places them above drug testing:
“’The idea that there needs to be testing of physicians is just ridiculous…Doctors need to be held in some level of esteem, they do such significant training, they play such an important role in our society, and the idea that we want to subject all doctors to drug testing just because this gentleman can point to one or two cases where something may have happened I think is really unfortunate. I think there has to be a sense that these doctors are sacrificing their lives.’”
The letter concluded: “Fenton and the medical lobby are paid to protect doctors, but the Medical Board of California is charged by law with protecting consumers from doctors who would place their patients in harm’s way.  Clearly, few doctors are more dangerous than those who abuse drugs and alcohol on the job.  The public deserves to know what you are doing in response.”
Last week, Bob Pack turned in 844,000 signatures to qualify the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act for this November’s statewide ballot in California.  Mr. Pack lost his two young children, 10 year old Troy and 7 year old Alana, to a drugged driver who was overprescribed narcotics by multiple doctors at the same Kaiser hospital.
The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act would:
·      Require random drug and alcohol testing of doctors modeled after the Federal Aviation Administration’s testing of airline pilots, and testing after an adverse event in a hospital
·      Require physicians to report suspected drug or alcohol abuse at work by a colleague
·      Index for inflation the medical negligence damage cap set by the legislature in California in 1975
·      Mandate that physicians check the state’s prescription drug database before prescribing narcotics and other addictive drugs to first-time patients
Learn more at
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Carmen Balber
Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber has been with the organization for nearly two decades. She spent four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office where she advocated for key health insurance market reforms that were ultimately enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act.

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