29 Nevada doctors on list for overprescribing OxyContin

CARSON CITY — A meeting between the staff of the state medical board and executives with the pharmaceutical company that makes the pain management drug OxyContin has produced the names of 29 Nevada licensed professionals in the firm’s Abuse & Diversion Detection program.

But Douglas Cooper, executive director of the Nevada State Medical Board, said Wednesday the state panel has already taken some type of action in all 29 cases.

As a result of the Tuesday meeting with officials from Purdue Pharma, further review of some of the cases might be necessary but would remain confidential at this point in the process, he said.

“There were no surprises,” Cooper said. “The board is being very proactive in its drug investigations. We work more closely now than ever with law enforcement.”

Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem but patient accountability has to be factored in as well, he said.

There are about 7,700 physicians with active licenses in Nevada now, so the number provided at the meeting is well below 1 percent of that total.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who asked the company for the list of Nevada doctors to be turned over to state officials for review, said the results appear positive.

“In some ways I’m pleased that apparently our current system has at least identified the same doctors that Purdue has identified,” Segerblom said. “It is some vindication for the board. There is a more general problem though as to whether these drugs are appropriate.”

The meeting was held after Purdue Pharma President and Chief Executive Officer John Stewart said last week the company was willing to share information about Nevada physicians in its abuse detection program that looks for possible overprescribing practices for the drug.

Cooper said he would not be able to release the names of the 27 doctors and two physician assistants from Nevada on the list. But every disciplinary action taken by the medical board against a doctor is public information readily accessible on its website, he said. The information would include whether a doctor was disciplined for prescribing issues.

Twenty-three of the 29 actions taken by the state medical board were for prescribing issues, Cooper said.

He could not say with certainty that they all involved OxyContin, but it is frequently the drug at issue in such cases.

One disciplinary action involved a sexual boundary issue, another involved pornography and the others were related to issues such as medical records violations, Cooper said.

While names were not immediately available, the actions taken were summarized, with four doctors losing their licenses to practice medicine, four suspensions, four surrenders of licenses while investigations were under way. Three had probation imposed.

Another four were settled in various ways, three complaints are still pending, two involved doctors who are deceased and two were closed for lack of evidence, Cooper said. Three could not be investigated because the complaints were recent but dated back to 2003 and 2007, too old to allow for review, he said.

Purdue Pharma spokesman Jim Heins said the company will not release the names of the medical professionals on the company’s list.

But the company has always been willing to share its information about the doctors identified as potentially recklessly prescribing the drug with state officials, he said.

The database maintained by the company is in part created based on disciplinary actions imposed by state boards and other public information, Heins said.

“Sometimes we have made proactive referrals,” he said. “But sometimes we just have hearsay and there is not enough information to make a referral.”

Heins said the company will still use such information when deciding whether to call on or promote the drug to a particular physician.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.