Physician Practice Roundup—California doctor arrested for allegedly prescribing drugs tied to deaths

Addiction
A Southern California doctor’s alleged illegal prescribing of opioids and other narcotics, "clearly and tragically illustrates the dangers of drug dealers armed with prescription pads," said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. (Getty/BackyardProduction)

California doctor arrested for allegedly prescribing drugs tied to deaths

A Southern California doctor was arrested Tuesday on federal charges that allege he illegally distributed opioids and other narcotics by writing prescriptions, including to at least five people who suffered overdose deaths. But his prescribing also appears linked to the death of a bicyclist struck by a driver allegedly under the influence of drugs and to a mass shooting at a California bar.

Dzung Ahn Pham, D.O., 57, of Tustin, California, who owns Irvine Village Urgent Care, was arrested by special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration on a criminal complaint that charges him with two counts of illegally distributing oxycodone, according to an announcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. Pham allegedly wrote prescriptions for patients without medical examinations. An affidavit alleges Pham was selling prescriptions to patients who were drug addicts or were selling the drugs on the black market.

One man who allegedly obtained prescriptions from Pham was involved in a car accident last month that killed a bicyclist, who was a captain with the Costa Mesa Fire and Rescue Department.

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The affidavit also details a text message sent by Pham, who expressed concern after receiving information that the man who fatally shot 12 people last month at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks had in his possession prescriptions for someone else, but which Pham had prescribed.

"This case clearly and tragically illustrates the dangers of drug dealers armed with prescription pads," said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. (U.S. Attorney’s Office announcement)

Emergency Physicians group applauds ban on firearm bump stocks

The American College of Emergency Physicians said a new federal regulation that bans firearm bump stocks is a step forward in reducing firearm violence.

“On behalf of the nation’s emergency physicians, I applaud the Trump Administration for taking this decisive action to outlaw bump stocks,” Vidor Friedman, M.D., the group’s president said in an announcement. The regulation bans the manufacture, possession and sale of bump stocks, which Friedman noted is a firearm modification used in the deadly mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and more than 400 injured.

“While that shooter’s motivations and personal responsibility for the attack cannot be ignored, the scope and severity of that shooting was facilitated using firearms fitted with bump stocks to increase the rate of fire. The availability of these devices poses a very real and serious threat to public safety,” Friedman said. (ACEP announcement)

Car crashes, firearm injuries are leading causes of kids’ deaths in U.S.

The major cause of death for children and adolescents in the U.S. isn’t disease, but motor vehicle accidents and firearm-related injuries, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The report detailed the 10 leading causes for the 20,360 deaths of kids in the United States in 2016. Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause, responsible for 20% of all deaths. Firearm injuries were the second-leading cause, responsible for 15% of deaths.

Despite improvements in care, pediatric cancers were the third-leading cause of death, representing 9% of overall deaths in kids from 1 to 19 years of age. The leading causes of death did vary by age. Among children 1 to 4 years old, drowning caused the most deaths. (NEJM study)

The final word on the ACA's fate is years away, legal analysts say. But it could get messy in the meantime

Texas District Judge Reed O’Connor shook the healthcare world late last Friday when he ruled the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

But it could be years before we get a final verdict on that case, according to legal and policy experts who cautioned against jumping to extreme conclusions. 

On Monday, 17 Democratic attorneys general asked O’Connor to enter a stay in his decision and a final judgment, and indicated they intend to appeal the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as soon as possible. 

The Democratic AGs are being led by California's Xavier Becerra. On Wednesday, 11 health organizations from the Golden State, including Blue Shield of California, announced their opposition to the decision (and their "full-throated support" for efforts to appeal it). 

The case could well make it to the Supreme Court after that, but probably not until at least its 2020 term, said Georgetown University law professor Katie Keith on a webinar sponsored by the Alliance for Health Policy on Wednesday. (FierceHealthcare)

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