Medical Board spokeswoman Candis Cohen said the state does not keep statistics on how many doctors it investigates annually for illegally writing prescriptions for pain medications.
But in fiscal year 2005-2006, the board reported that 40 physicians were disciplined for so-called "inappropriate prescribing," including prescribing the wrong drug, one a patient does not need or an improper dosage.
If doctors are found to have violated state guidelines, Cohen said, they may be subject to a variety of penalties, from a public reprimand or probation to revocation of their medical licenses or even referral for possible criminal charges.
On the enforcement front, Cohen said the Medical Board now conducts its investigations in conjunction with the California attorney general's office. The process, the result of a state law that went into effect in 2006, streamlines and speeds reviews of alleged physician misconduct.