Sun Should Set On Medical Board That Fails to Protect Public From Drug-Using, Over-Prescribing, Dangerous Doctors, Says Consumer Watchdog

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Sacramento, CA – Consumer Watchdog called on the legislature to pull the plug on the Medical Board of California at hearings to renew it in Sacramento today because the board has failed in its duty to protect patients from drug dealing, over-prescribing and other dangerous doctors. The group also called for mandatory random drug testing of high-risk physicians. Bereaved families who have lost loved ones to overdoses due to reckless prescribing and other medical negligence demanded an end to failed doctor discipline and accountability in California.

“The sun shouldn’t rise again on this doctor-run Medical Board that has turned its back on patient safety for four decades to protect dangerous, drug-dealing and over-prescribing doctors who continue practicing while threating the lives and health of patients” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. “Governor Brown should reject this board’s renewal if the legislature is unwilling to significantly overhaul its makeup, culture and transparency.”

The group pointed to an epidemic of reckless prescribing by doctors whose prescriptions have been linked to multiple overdose deaths while the medical board failed to act, uncovered in a recent Los Angeles Time investigation, as just the latest in four decades of examples of the doctor oversight panel’s failure to protect the public. For example, a former meth user who was convicted on federal criminal charges for drug dealing will be treating California patients again within a year under an agreement recently announced by the California Medical Board.

At an October 26, 2012 meeting, members of the Medical Board rejected a proposal to raise physician license fees modestly to identify physicians who are reckless prescribers of narcotics using the prescription database CURES. Physician board member Silvia Diego literally laughed at the proposal, saying “the only reason that you would want to use it [CURES] is for the protection of the public.”

That position parrots the line of the California Medical Association, the doctor lobby organization that controls the board. The CMA supported legislation to spend $40 extra per year in licensing fees last year to create a private “diversion program” for drug-using doctors that never passed the Legislature. This year a CMA spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that it would not support paying $9 to analyze prescribing data to detect drug-abusing doctors and patients.

View a video of Dr. Diego laughing at the proposal during the Medical Board hearing here:

Court and Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber made the consumer case against the medical board in a San Francisco Chronicle oped this morning that can be read here:

In 1975 the medical lobby promised the California Legislature that, in return for severe restrictions on patients’ legal rights to hold dangerous doctors accountable, a strong regulatory system under the Medical Board would protect patients against dangerous doctors. For nearly four decades the Board has failed in that duty, said Consumer Watchdog, and it is time to restore patients’ rights.

In addition to allowing the Medical Board to sunset, Consumer Watchdog called for reforms including:

  1. A new, independent board with a majority of public members, not physicians.
  1. Moving all medical board investigators to the Department of Justice.
  1. Mandatory random drug testing of all high-risk physicians, as is currently required for pilots, college athletes and bus drivers.
  1. Revisiting the state’s 38-year-old limits on patients’ legal rights that prevent injured patients from holding negligent medical providers accountable.

The Senate Business, Professions & Economic Development and Assembly Business, Professions & Consumer Protection committees held the sunset review hearing in Sacramento today to consider whether the Medical Board should be renewed.

Download Consumer Watchdog’s letters to Governor Brown and committee chairs Senator Curren Price and Assemblymember Richard Gordon here:

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Jamie Court
Jamie Court
Consumer Watchdog's President and Chairman of the Board is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. The author of three books, he has led dozens of campaigns to reform insurance companies, financial institutions, energy companies, political accountability and health care companies.

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