A Southern California doctor was found guilty of murder on Friday for over-prescribing drugs that caused the fatal overdose of three patients, in a landmark verdict prosecutors called the first such conviction in the United States.
In addition to the three counts of second-degree murder, Dr. Hsiu Ying “Lisa” Tseng, 45, was found guilty on 19 counts of unlawful prescription of a controlled substance and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.
She was also convicted of illegally writing prescriptions for two of the deceased patients and 16 other people, including two undercover agents who were investigating how easily she prescribed addictive pain pills after brief office visits.
Prosecutors said nine of her patients died during a span of less than three years, while Tseng raked in $5 million from her clinic, dispensing potent, addictive medications to people who did not need them.
Prior to the criminal case, Tseng had already settled civil lawsuits with the families of five other men who overdosed on drugs she proscribed. Testimony revealed at least 12 of Tseng’s patients have died of prescription drug overdoses.
Tseng often used no medical records while prescribing the drugs, officials said.
“In many instances, she faked medical records when authorities began investigating,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
The case comes amid what public health officials describe as a national epidemic in over-prescribing narcotic painkillers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last year the trend was fueling nearly 17,000 overdose deaths annually, as well as a rise in heroin addiction.
“You can’t hide behind a white lab coat and commit crimes,” Deputy District Attorney John Niedermann said. “Writing a prescription to someone knowing that they’re going to abuse it and potentially die was the theory of second-degree murder that we had.”
The doctor repeatedly ignored warning signs even after several patients died as she built a new medical clinic in Rowland Heights with the money she made from them, earning $5 million in one three-year period. One patient even overdosed in her office and had to be revived.
Tseng prescribed “crazy, outrageous amounts of medication” to patients who didn’t need the pills, the Deputy District Attorney told jurors in Los Angeles County Superior Court during closing arguments. Prosecutors said the recent verdict, capping a six-week trial, marked the first time in which a U.S. doctor was found guilty of murder for over-prescribing drugs.
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Several years ago multiple news outlets broke the headlining news that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline pled guilty to health fraud and paid a whopping $3 billion dollars to the United States government for it. The payment is the largest fraud settlement in U.S. history, and the largest fine ever paid by a drug company.
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The Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic Blog is written by Dr. Mark Huntsman.
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