The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich calling for a report on necessary and adequate federal oversight of opioid prescription use, specifically for manufacturers, physicians, and pharmacies that relate to potential illicit opioid prescription activity.
“We need to look at the evidence of large quantities of opioid painkillers that are prescribed and issued, which suggests the presence of illegal trafficking in our neighborhood pharmacies,” Antonovich said. The Supervisor referred to a recent media report regarding some local clinics that were investigated for prescribing substantial amounts of OxyContin as they worked in conjunction with corrupt pharmacies in Los Angeles County. For instance, one MacArthur Park clinic doctor was found to prescribe 1,500 pills of OxyContin in just one week in September 2015, 11,000 pills in October, and over 73,000 pills by December with a street value of nearly $6 million.
“What is even worse is that our homelessness issue is exacerbated as evidence shows that vulnerable homeless individuals are used in these medical rings that conduct scams by shuttling them around to various pharmacies,” he added. “This creates problems for security and other societal issues that invade and hurt our communities.”
Under federal law, drug makers are required to alert the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) if there are high volume orders that trigger awareness of illegal trafficking. Opioid manufacturers are slipping through the cracks due to a chronic lack of federal and State oversight. Drug companies maintain data for the purposes of sales which track the number of prescriptions being issued by individual doctors. A duty to reject orders from customers exists if the company suspects that its drugs are going into the black market.
“This sort of federal oversight has fallen short in Los Angeles County,” he added. “Not only do pharma companies not alert the DEA, but there is no way to shut off the supply of such highly addictive drugs that are going out on the streets until it is too late. The impact of this lack of federal and State compliance impacts us directly, both in the short and long term.”
Antonovich’s motion directed the Department of Public Health to report back on the current impacts of opioids and prescriptions of such opioids in the County, including an analysis on how physicians and pharmacies in Los Angeles County are being regulated at the federal and State level, what actions can be taken to ensure that there is adequate and necessary federal oversight of opioid prescription use, and if proper DEA oversight should be established over opioid manufacturers, physicians, and pharmacies that relate to potential illicit opioid prescription activity.