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Policy Reminders Released As Patients Seek Opioid Painkillers After Doctor Is Arrested

Issues are stemming from recent criminal charges regarding the prescribing of prescription painkillers that were filed against a California doctor. The doctor's former patients have been seeking help for their pain needs at Sonora Regional Medical Center and some of the patients requests have been a bit outside the normal policies of the medical center. This has caused Sonora to release a reminder to the public about their pain medication policies as a way to do their part to reduce prescription drug addiction and the rising opiate-related overdose deaths.

Tuolumne County, where Sonora Regional Medical Center is centered, has the sixth highest rank in the state of California for deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses. In addition, it is ranked third for the number of opiate prescriptions to their residents, according to the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation system as well as the Department of Public Health in California. The average prescription for opiates in Tuolumne County is 437 tablets of Vicodin per every person in the county.

Due to an increase in preventative measures, two doctors were arrested on July 7th, 2015 at their office in Sonora following a seven-month long investigation into their prescribing habits. Vanessa Sostock was charged with prescribing controlled substances without any legitimate purpose, the transportation of narcotic or controlled substances, the practicing of medicine without having any certificates, and conspiracy to commit a crime.

In addition, Dr. Lori Sostock was charged with forty-eight counts of prescribing controlled substances without any legitimate purpose as well as charges including transportation of narcotics, over-prescription of administered drugs or treatment, and conspiracy to commit a crime. The arrests of these doctors have left a large amount of residents in the area without pain medication regardless of the legitimacy of their claims.

In response, the hospital released information stating that in an effort to promote patient safety, the emergency physicians at their ER and at their Prompt Cares will not prescribe pain medication when a patient already receives opiates from another health care provider. In the rare case that an exception is made, the dosage and amount are severely limited. In addition, stolen or lost prescription cannot be refilled and does of Suboxone, Methadone, Subutex (all used in the treatment of addiction to opiates) cannot be replaced. Drugs such as MS Contin, OxyContin, Fentanyl, Dilaudid, Exalgo, Methadone, and Opana ER cannot be filled at all at Sonora Regional Medical Center.

When requesting a refill or any other opiate-related concerns, photo identification and health records may be necessary for safety.

Sonora hospital also reminded the public that its clinics and physicians use the Drug Monitoring Program of California to track narcotics and other controlled substance prescriptions. This is mandated by law.

These strict regulations have come about as an average of forty-four people die every day from an overdose of prescription painkillers and many more become addicted to opiates or make the switch to heroin. The American Academy of Emergency Medicine has stated that these abuses have become an issue of national importance as the epidemic grows. Deaths from prescription painkillers are no exceeding overdose deaths from cocaine and heroin combined.

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