Lisa Tseng, who operates a medical practice out of a strip mall near the 60… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)
The parents of two young Orange County men who died of overdoses filed lawsuits Friday alleging that a Rowland Heights physician acted like a drug dealer in selling prescriptions to their sons.
The cases bring to 10 the number of drug deaths linked to the practice Lisa Tseng operates in a mini-mall near the 60 Freeway. A Times investigation last year identified eight former patients who died after overdosing on the types of drugs Tseng prescribed.
Most of the overdoses were by young men who drove to Tseng's office from Orange County, paid cash for prescriptions and filled them at small pharmacies miles away.
Riley Russo and Ryan Winter, both died at age 20 last year after taking Opana, an addictive narcotic similar to oxycodone, and other drugs prescribed by Tseng, their parents allege in the lawsuits.
Tseng lawyer Denise Taylor said she had not seen the suits and could not comment on the malpractice allegations.
State medical authorities have moved to revoke her license, and a criminal investigation by federal drug authorities is ongoing.
Russo, a former high school football player, began using Opana and the anti-anxiety medication Xanax when he was 16, his father told a coroner's investigator after his death in December. Russo eventually lost interest in sports and drifted into a life of drug abuse, his father said. He dabbled with heroin but quit after a drug-related seizure, the father added. Later, he crushed Opana pills to be snorted or smoked.
Prior to his death, Russo had completed a 40-day stay in a drug rehabilitation facility and had begun working as a painter with his father, according to coroner's records.
According to the suit, Tseng prescribed high doses of dangerous narcotics to Russo, including, "on multiple occasions," Opana and Xanax. The suit alleges that such "reckless" prescribing was a "substantial factor" in his death.
Pharmacy records show Ryan Winter visited Tseng twice the week before he died — obtaining two prescriptions for Opana and one for Xanax, said Larry Eisenberg, an Irvine lawyer handling the two wrongful death suits.
"This is a tragedy," Eisenberg said. Tseng's "actions have destroyed the lives of my clients."