Purdue hands California list of risky OxyContin prescribers

Which doctors to flag for reckless OxyContin prescribing may soon be a decision that's out of maker Purdue Pharma's hands, at least in California. Thursday, a spokesman from Purdue Pharma confirmed that the company had turned over a list of 49 California doctors it suspected of risky script-writing to the Medical Board of California.

The names came from Purdue's own database of 1,800 doctors it has its eye on for potentially over-prescribing the highly addictive opioid painkiller, information the company first publicly acknowledged it had last month. Purdue sent over the names on Sept. 12, prior to a Sept. 18 deadline set by the board. Since then, the board has updated its request to cover "a broader time period," Purdue spokesman Jim Heins told FiercePharma. He did not provide further details about what time period that was, but he said the drugmaker is in the process of responding to the board's request.

"We need to look through all the information and see what's going on," California Medical Board spokeswoman Cassandra Hockenson told FiercePharma. "We're being very cognizant of the situation and the circumstances and of due process."

Purdue has been facing mounting political pressure since it last month confirmed it had been keeping tabs on doctors with suspicious habits. Purdue said the information has always been available to law enforcement on request, but California state senators scolded the drugmaker for flagging only 154 cases to law enforcement officials since it began its red-flagging program in 2002. They also called for Purdue to hand over the names, claiming which physicians to probe for violations shouldn't be up to a corporation that benefits from risky prescription habits.

State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) said in an interview with FiercePharma Thursday that he was very pleased Purdue was cooperating to provide the California Medical Board with the information, which regulators can use to help combat addiction. "We know that legal prescription painkillers kill more people in overdose deaths than heroine or cocaine combined, and the issue of some prescribers who are recklessly or intentionally prescribing high levels of highly addictive narcotics to their patients has been a problem that we're trying to address in California," he said.

State senators have also drafted legislation to put more power and better tools in the hands of authorities when it comes to cracking down on risky narcotics prescribers. Three bills now await a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown to make them law, including one to update a database containing detailed information about the narcotics California pharmacies dispense. But doctors and drugmakers initially called the bills unfair, negotiating out certain provisions--like a requirement to check that database before prescribing a narcotic--during the legislative process.