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L.A. Now Live: Inside The Times' prescription deaths investigation

November 12, 2012 |  7:53 am

Times staff writers Scott Glover and Lisa Girion will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. on Monday to discuss their story and database about prescription drug deaths.

The investigation found that prescription overdoses kill more people than heroin and cocaine.

A Los Angeles Times investigation has found that in nearly half of the accidental deaths from prescription drugs in four Southern California counties, the deceased had a doctor's prescription for at least one drug that caused or contributed to the death.

An examination of coroners' records found that:
  • In 1,762 of those cases — 47% — drugs for which the deceased had a prescription were the sole cause or a contributing cause of death.
  • A small cadre of doctors was associated with a disproportionate number of those fatal overdoses. Seventy-one — 0.1% of all practicing doctors in the four counties — wrote prescriptions for drugs that caused or contributed to 298 deaths. That is 17% of the total linked to doctors' prescriptions.
  • Each of those 71 physicians prescribed drugs to three or more patients who died.
  • Four of the doctors had 10 or more patients who fatally overdosed.
  • One doctor, Van H. Vu,  had the highest total: 16. Vu is a pain specialist in Huntington Beach.