On June 4, 2013, under threat from the state legislature, the Medical Board of California (“MBC”) met to embark on a search for new leadership and began to earnestly consider a host of proposals aimed at combating reckless prescribing of physicians.
The state legislature intends to abolish the MBC at the end of the year. However, this is an oft-repeated threat of the legislature and is meant to drive change. Key lawmakers have stated that the measure to abolish the MBC is because the subsection of the Department of Consumer Affairs is not making progress on the issues that concern consumers. Specifically, Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the committee that oversees the MBC, said he remains concerned with a culture that resulted in the MBC “not having the laser focus on consumer protection and enforcement that we think they need to have.” Several lawmakers have proposed moving the MBC’s investigators to the attorney general’s office, hoping to improve oversight of doctors.
Demonstrating it got the message, at the outset of the meeting, board President Sharon Levine announced that the board’s executive director, Linda K. Whitney, had notified the board of her decision to retire effective June 1. Whitney’s notice came just days before the board was to discuss her continued employment “and the selection of an acting executive director, if necessary” according to an item on the June 4th agenda.
Furthermore, at the specially convened meeting, the MBC discussed the need for urgency in developing new guidelines for prescribing OxyContin, Vicodin and other narcotic painkillers that have fueled a national prescription drug death epidemic. Panel members expressed tentative support for a proposal that would form specialized enforcement teams to identify and investigate doctors engaged in suspected fraudulent prescribing of these particular, highly addictive drugs.