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Doctor accused of recklessly prescribing painkillers linked to deaths

Rowland Heights physician Lisa Tseng prescribed powerful narcotics after little to no examination of three men who died after overdosing on the types of drugs she prescribed to them, the Osteopathic Medical Board of California alleges.

February 03, 2012|By Hailey Branson-Potts and Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times
  • Dr. Lisa Tseng, a Rowland Heights physician who previously had been accused of recklessly prescribing addictive painkillers, was linked Thursday to the deaths of three patients, according to state medical board documents.
Dr. Lisa Tseng, a Rowland Heights physician who previously had been accused… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

A Rowland Heights physician who previously had been accused of recklessly prescribing addictive painkillers was linked Thursday to the deaths of three patients, according to state medical board documents.

Dr. Lisa Tseng prescribed powerful narcotics after little to no examination of three men, all in their 20s, who died after overdosing on the types of drugs she prescribed to them, the Osteopathic Medical Board of California alleged in a new accusation made public Thursday.

A Times investigation published in 2010 identified eight former patients — including the three named in the accusation — who fatally overdosed on the types of drugs Tseng prescribed.

Last summer, the parents of two young Orange County men who died of overdoses sued Tseng, bringing to 10 the number of deaths linked to her practice.

Most of the deaths were of young men who drove to Tseng's office from Orange County, paid cash for the prescriptions and filled them at small pharmacies miles away, according to records and interviews.

Tseng, according to the board's 118-page amended accusation, was grossly negligent in her care of 14 patients over several years, including one who was an undercover medical board investigator.

The board moved to revoke Tseng's license last year. In the initial accusation, Tseng was accused of "grossly negligent" care of seven patients. That accusation included no deaths.

Tseng's medical license expired Nov. 30. As a "good faith gesture to the Osteopathic Medical Board," she did not renew it and has agreed not to practice while the accusations are pending, said Peter Osinoff, a lawyer for Tseng.

Osinoff declined to comment on the amended accusation because he had not yet reviewed it.

"If she wants her license, she's going to have to apply for reinstatement, and it's unlikely that's going to happen," said Dr. Donald J. Krpan, executive director of the board.

Krpan said he believes there are "grounds for a criminal prosecution" within the board's accusation.

Investigators with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided Tseng's office in August 2010, hauling away boxes of documents and computers.

DEA officials suspended Tseng's license to prescribe controlled substances, calling her "an imminent danger to public health and safety."

April Rovero, a woman from San Ramon whose 21-year-old son died of an overdose nine days after Tseng prescribed him oxycodone and several other drugs, said she was "absolutely sickened" to read details of Tseng's practice uncovered by the medical board.

"I have wondered since my son, Joey, died whether Dr. Tseng would have written the same prescriptions that took his life for her own children and, in the end, how she can possibly sleep at night knowing the trail of devastation she is personally responsible for," Rovero said.

Rovero said she hopes Tseng is criminally prosecuted and her license revoked "to show other doctors with similar practices that this type of medical care is absolutely not going to be tolerated."

hailey.branson@latimes.com

lisa.girion@latimes.com

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