Doctors increasingly face charges for patient overdoses

(CNN)Doctors are increasingly being held accountable — some even facing murder charges — when their patients overdose on opioid painkillers they prescribed.

A Texas doctor faces charges of illegally distributing these drugs in connection with at least seven deaths, according to an indictment that was unsealed this month.

Weeks prior, a doctor in Oklahoma was charged with five counts of second-degree murder for prescribing “horrifyingly excessive amounts” of potent drugs, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement.

In 2015, Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng became the first doctor to be convicted of murder for overprescribing painkillers. She was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison by a Los Angeles judge.

The number of doctors penalized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration has grown more than fivefold in recent years. The agency took action against 88 doctors in 2011 and 479 in 2016, according to an analysis of the National Practitioner Data Bank by Tony Yang, an associate professor of health administration and policy at George Mason University. Many other doctors have been sued in civil suits.

While high-profile cases against doctors have brought yet another spotlight to the nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic, experts say this is rare and overlooks the bigger picture.

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