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Investigators raid office of Rowland Heights doctor tied to eight drug or suicide deaths [Updated]

August 25, 2010 |  6:01 pm

Authorities on Wednesday raided the office of a Rowland Heights doctor suspected of illegally dealing prescription narcotics to patients — a practice linked to at least eight overdose and suicide deaths in recent years.

As they continue to investigate, officials suspended Dr. Lisa Tseng's license to prescribe controlled substances.

An affidavit supporting the search of her office specifies two overdose deaths that federal authorities tied to her office. Autopsy reports reviewed by The Times and interviews indicate Tseng was a prescribing physician in six other cases.

In one of the two cases cited in the affidavit, a young man overdosed after Tseng prescribed him drugs; in the other, a 20-year-old overdosed after taking drugs given to him by a dealer who allegedly got them from Tseng, according to the affidavit sworn by Special Agent Robert J. Harkins of the Drug Enforcement Administration and filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Tseng, 40, a general osteopath whose full name is Hsiu-Ying Lisa Tseng, was not immediately available for comment.

[Updated at 7:04 p.m: In an interview late Wednesday, Tseng denied wrongdoing and said the responsibility for overdoses lies with the patients and their families.

“I really believe I did nothing wrong,” she said. “I was really strict with my patients, and I followed the guidelines. If my patient decides to take a month’s supply in a day, then there’s nothing I can do about that.”]

She was not charged with any crime and retained her license to practice medicine. But the search warrant affidavit made it clear that she is under investigation for allegedly prescribing oxycodone and other powerful narcotics without properly assessing her patients’ needs or apparent addictions. She has been under investigation by the DEA since 2007, according to the affidavit.

The raid on her office is part of a continuing effort by authorities to pursue physicians in the Los Angeles area who allegedly prescribe legal drugs in illegal ways.

Last month, a San Fernando doctor was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for illegally prescribing painkillers and other drugs to addicts who feigned medical problems. Overprescribing oxycodone and other potent drugs is fueling a thriving black market and has helped make the misuse of prescription medications second only to marijuana as a drug problem among teenagers, authorities say.

More than a dozen agents with the DEA and the Medical Board of California searched Tseng’s Advance Care Medical Center, located on the second floor of a mini-mall next to a popular dim sum restaurant and above a beauty supply store. They spent the better part of the day collecting patients’ files and searching the office’s computers to expand their understanding of how Tseng practiced.

According to the affidavit, Tseng rebuffed some requests by undercover agents for certain drugs. She refused one request made by an agent pretending to be a patient who asked for oxycodone for bad menstrual cramps and told another agent posing as a drug-seeker that she “does not want a patient that takes painkillers for fun or to get high.”

At the same time, the affidavit details a number of questionable practices by Tseng. It cites a medical expert who reviewed Tseng’s prescribing habits for authorities and concluded that it is “inconceivable that the pattern of prescriptions that he reviewed comes solely from the legitimate practice of medicine.”

-- Scott Glover and Lisa Girion