Connecticut’s shift next month from weekly to “real-time” reporting of prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances is an effective way to help stem opioid-related deaths, a new study suggests. Researchers from Vanderbilt University who analyzed states’ prescription drug monitoring programs – central databases that log controlled substances dispensed to patients -- found that programs that were “updated with greater frequency” and that reported data for a broad range of drugs were associated with greater declines in opioid-related deaths. The study in the journal Health Affairs comes as Connecticut prepares to put a policy in place requiring that pharmacies report controlled substance (Schedule II to V) prescriptions “immediately,” or at least within 24 hours after they are dispensed, into the central database, known as the Connecticut Prescription Monitoring and Reporting System (CPMRS). The CPMRS, maintained by the Department of Consumer Protection, can be accessed by doctors and pharmacists to give them a complete picture of a patient’s medication use, including prescriptions by other providers. It also can be used by law enforcement officials to investigate physician prescribing.
Four nursing homes have been fined by the state in connection with residents who broke bones, required surgery or wandered away. In two separate citations on April 8, Cassena Care at Norwalk was fined a total of $5,370 for a case in which a now former director of nursing blocked a resident from going to the hospital to maintain the resident count at the home, state records show. A day after the incident, on Oct. 10, the resident needed emergency cranial surgery and then was placed in hospice care, a citation from the state Department of Public Health said. DPH officials did not have information on whether the resident had died, department spokeswoman Maura Downes said.
The state Medical Examining Board on Tuesday disciplined six doctors, including fining a Norwalk doctor $5,000 for prescribing high doses of opioids to a prison inmate and other patients without proper safeguards. The board also suspended the license of a family medicine physician from Westport, saying his excessive drinking of alcohol presents a “clear and immediate danger” to the public. In the Norwalk case, the board also reprimanded Dr. Martin Perlin and limited his ability to prescribe painkillers. Between 2013 and 2015, Perlin prescribed high doses of opioids without adhering to standard safeguards, state Department of Public Health records show. One of the patients was incarcerated during the time that Perlin prescribed drugs for him, the records show.
A Derby nurse who admitted taking kickbacks from a drug company that makes the powerful opioid painkiller Subsys is cooperating with federal investigators, who recently charged two drug company employees with violating kickback laws, court documents show. Documents filed earlier this year show that Heather Alfonso, a nurse formerly employed by a Derby pain clinic, requested a delay in sentencing because she was “actively cooperating in an ongoing investigation in several jurisdictions, including Connecticut,” in which arrests were expected. “Ms. Alfonso’s cooperation with both state and federal investigations is significant when qualifying her character and conduct, relative to sentencing,” her attorney said in filings in U.S. District Court in Hartford. A judge agreed to delay Alfonso’s sentencing until Sept. 13.
The state Board of Examiners for Nursing has revoked the licenses of four nurses and disciplined eight other nurses, with all but one of the cases connected to alcohol or drug abuse. Meeting in Hartford on Wednesday, June 15, the board revoked the license of Leslie Matejek, a registered nurse from Derby, after she tested positive for cocaine three times in 2015, the board’s memorandum of decision said. The memo shows that in 2010 Matejek’s license was placed on probation for four years after she admitted falsifying a prescription for Oxycontin. According to the memo, she tested positive for oxycodone three times in 2010 and morphine twice in 2011. Her probation was later extended to February of this year, with weekly random drug tests.
Three nursing homes have been fined by the state in connection with residents who developed pressure sores or fell and sustained injuries. Bishop Wicke Health & Rehabilitation Center in Shelton was fined $2,160 on April 27 in connection with a resident who fell and was later hospitalized with inoperable bleeding on the brain. The DPH citation said that the resident’s head was hit during the fall on Oct. 24. As the resident became fatigued, a doctor treated the resident for a possible infection but reported never being told about the fall, the citation said.
A Branford child psychiatrist who paid $30,000 to settle a Medicaid fraud allegation with the state last year has agreed to give up his medical license when it expires Aug. 31. On May 24, the state Department of Public Health reached an agreement with Dr. W. Blake Taggart that he will voluntarily agree not to renew or reinstate his license. His action will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank and the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Though the allegations against him were not mentioned in the agreement, Taggart was in the news last year when he paid the fine to resolve allegations of fraudulent claims for payments to Cornerstones P.C., a Branford outpatient behavioral health clinic for children, according to press release from Attorney General George Jepsen.
Jepsen said that Taggart, who had been the medical director of Cornerstones, and social worker David M. Meyers, the former president of Cornerstones, had filed false claims for reimbursement from the Connecticut Medical Assistance Program, which is the state’s Medicaid program.
Five Connecticut physicians have received letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alleging that they may have purchased unapproved drugs that put patients at risk of adverse health consequences, documents obtained by C-HIT show. The FDA documents show the five doctors were alerted as part of a wide-reaching federal probe involving Gallant Pharma International Inc., which sold more than $12.4 million in unapproved chemotherapy and injectable cosmetic drugs in the United States before the government shut down the operation in 2013. The letters to the doctors, dated April 1, 2015, say that “In addition to putting patients at risk, receiving misbranded or adulterated drugs and devices in interstate commerce and delivering or offering to deliver those drugs and devices to (or use on) others violates federal law.”
None of the doctors has been charged with wrongdoing, and only one acknowledged receiving the letter from the FDA. The case comes to light as drug companies and pharmacies are urging Congress and law enforcement officials to crack down on an increasing number of dangerous unapproved and counterfeit drugs being sold to doctors and consumers nationwide. Sales of counterfeit drugs and drugs not approved by FDA have soared into a multi-billion dollar industry with the growth of the Internet, and drug companies say efforts by governments to tackle illegal online drug sales are not sufficient.
Four nursing homes have been fined by the state in connection with medication errors or residents who fell, broke bones or wandered outside alone. On March 15, Leeway Inc. of New Haven was fined $3,000 in connection with a resident who was hospitalized on Feb. 23 with low levels of phosphate and potassium after a medication error. The resident was not given seven doses of potassium chloride despite a doctor’s order, the state Department of Health citation said. A registered nurse said later that she was tired and missed the order, the citation said.
Connecticut’s outpatient surgery centers fare well in preventing patient falls and wrong-site surgeries, compared to national rates, but poorly in avoiding patient burns and in ensuring that surgical patients get intravenous antibiotics, new federal data show. In addition, many of the state’s 45 Medicare-certified centers perform significantly more surgical procedures than the national average, with eight centers reporting more than double the average caseload. The data -- recently made public by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and now available on C-HIT’s website – show that Connecticut’s ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) have a lower average rate of patients who suffer falls than the national average -- .077, compared to .095. The data is from 2013 and 2014, the most recent years available. The state’s ASCs also have a lower rate, on average, of patients who experience a wrong-site, wrong-patient or wrong-procedure error -- .017, compared to the national average of .028.