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Dennis Quaid Calls On Californians To Support Pack Patient Safety Act

5:07 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Dennis Quaid“We were lucky to have a happy ending,” actor Dennis Quaid told a crowd at Consumer Watchdog’s Rage for Justice Awards in 2009. He was talking about the near-fatal overdose that his twins experienced at birth. They were given one thousand times the amount of blood thinner they were supposed to and nearly bled to death. “Their survival was the beginning of my activism.”

Dennis received the Phillip Burton Public Service Award for the spotlight he has put on medical errors and his campaign to introduce bar coding for prescription drugs and electronic medical records into the medical system. Cedars Sinai introduced a $100 million bar coding system in response to the Quaid family.

“People started telling us their story,” Dennis said of people who approached him with their own tales of medical negligence.

Now Dennis has taken a stand for California families victimized by medical negligence. He is asking California voters to sign the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, a California ballot measure to toughen the state’s patient safety laws.

“Troy, 10 years old, and Alana, 7, died because the health care industry has not done a good enough job keeping track of prescription medication,” Quaid said. “Their father, Bob, wrote this ballot measure to change things so other families won’t have to live through the tragedy his has.”

Dennis urged voters to watch a short, 2-minute video about Bob Pack’s courageous fight and add their signature for the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act.

More than 500,000 signatures have been gathered for the Pack Act.  More than 800,000 signatures must be turned in by March 24th for the ballot measure to be before voters in November.

“This patient safety reform can save lives,” Quaid said. “My family went through a frightening few weeks when our newborn twins received a near-fatal overdose and almost lost their lives. Since then, I have learned that patient safety is a huge problem and that the medical industry needs to learn some lessons from the aviation industry, which has a zero tolerance policy for errors.”

To the Ballot for Alana and Troy

12:57 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Pack MemorialLast Sunday, at the 10th memorial of my children’s death, we started a march to the ballot for patient safety. I hope you will join us. My seven year old, Alana, and ten year old, Troy, died because an addict got thousands of pills she never should have been prescribed since she had no physical symptoms.

She fell asleep at the wheel, swerved off the road and killed Alana and Troy. Yesterday we gathered the first signatures at Troy and Alana’s elementary school for the Troy and Alana Patient Safety Act — which seeks to stop substance abuse among patients and physicians, as well as creating legal deterrence for reckless prescribing and dangerous medicine.

As I wrote in an oped in last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, we are going directly to the voters because the state’s medical association has opposed modest reform of patient safety laws at every turn in the legislature.

No family should have to live through what mine has because doctors didn’t know or care that they were prescribing thousands of pills to a drug addict.

In the coming weeks, you will be seeing signature gatherers at your local markets asking for your signature for the Pack Patient Safety Act. Please take a moment to sign and help us bring these critical issues of patient safety to the voters of California. We need 504,000 signatures from voters to make the November 2014 election, please help us help other families avoid the needless pain mine has had to endure. If you would like to learn more about the Pack Act and get involved in the signature gathering effort, please visit http://www.packact.org.


Posted by Bob Pack – Creator of the California CURES database and proponent of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Act.

Brown Out

9:10 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Governor Jerry BrownGovernor Jerry Brown waited until late Friday to veto legislation requiring coroners to report to the medical board whenever narcotics cause deaths. The medical establishment has opposed the bill, which is aimed at weeding out the small number of dangerous and drug dealing doctors who are responsible for the vast majority of prescription drug overdose deaths.

Brown cited state costs as his reason, but it just doesn’t add up. The bill would have cost no more than hundreds of thousands of dollars. The power of the medical establishment is the real motive here, and their distaste for any accountability or transparency. The arrogance of medical-pharmaceutical complex is astounding, but what’s really disturbing is that they have Jerry Brown’s ear and pen.

The Los Angeles Times did a groundbreaking investigation of prescription overdose deaths and dirty doctors based on obtaining coroner reports like the ones that SB 62 would have required to be reported to the medical board. The fact that such a simple measure cannot get past the governor’s desk shows why we need to go to the ballot with the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, which requires mandatory drug testing of physicians and other patient safety measures.

Drug testing physicians is not only critical to protecting the public from substance abusing doctors, but it is also remedies another epidemic — the belief by the doctors lobby that they are above it all. Make them pee in a cup and some of the arrogance we have been witnessing in response to common sense measures like SB 62 will be reduced too.

After today, it might be wise to make Governor Brown pee in a cup too. The loss of judgement and clarity in the deliberation of SB 62 makes one wonder.


Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter. Read the rest of this entry →

Is Your Doctor Opposed To Peeing In A Cup? Check The List

6:03 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Does Your Doctor Oppose Patient Safety ReformA drunk Orange County plastic surgeon reportedly disfigured at least a half dozen patients before losing his license. A Rocklin anesthesiologist was arrested for taking anesthesia through an extra IV line while administering it to a patient. A meth-using doctor who was convicted of drug dealing will get his doctor’s license back after a year.

Does your doctor oppose mandatory drug testing for physicians? Check the list.

Substance abuse among California physicians is higher than the general population, yet unlike bus drivers and pilots, physicians don’t have to take drug tests. A proposed patient safety ballot measure requires mandatory drug testing of physicians, but a group of doctors is raising big bucks to stop these and other common sense patient safety measures.

Consumer Watchdog has published the list of doctors across the state who have given money to the opponents of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act. We think patients should know if their doctors are standing in the way of their safety and will be sharing the list with millions of Californians.

Troy, 10 years old, and Alana, 7, were hit and killed by a drug abusing driver prescribed thousands of pills by negligent physicians. Their dad, Bob Pack, is the author of the ballot measure to create mandatory drug testing among physicians, require doctors to use an electronic prescription drug database and modernize patient safety laws.

Check the list and ask your doctor if he or she opposes modest patient safety reforms.

It’s time for the medical establishment to explain why it is resisting common sense solutions to weed out the small number of dangerous and dirty doctors that commit the vast majority of medical malpractice.

Read the rest of this entry →

Historic Step for Patient Safety & Victims’ Rights

5:30 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Bob PackWe just wanted to let you know that we have filed a ballot measure that has been 37 years in the making. If we collect about 750,000 valid signatures, voters will have a chance to adjust for inflation a three and a half decade-old cap on the value of a child’s life if he or she is killed by medical negligence — a $250,000 limit that has never been changed.

Bob Pack, who lost his seven year-old daughter and ten year-old son on a roadside nine years ago, is the author of the ballot measure to address the drug overdose and physician accountability issues at the heart of his family’s tragedy, which you can read about below.

California voters have helped us qualify one initiative for next year’s ballot already — the Health Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act. Now we wanted to let you know that there will soon be opportunities for you to work with us on a new health care reform measure that deals with patient safety issues. 2014 is shaping up to be “The Year of the Patient.” If you want to help out, please email us at yearofthepatient@consumerwatchdog.org and let us know what you are willing to do.

The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act includes the following changes to California law:

  • Mandatory random drug and alcohol testing for physicians and mandatory physician drug and alcohol testing after reports of adverse events;
  • Mandatory use by physicians of the electronic CURES database, a searchable system that tracks prescriptions dispensed in California, which Pack developed for the state of California in the wake of his family’s tragedy;
  • Adjusting for inflation the 37-year-old $250,000 cap on recovery for medical negligence victims, which has not changed since 1975, and as the author of the original law, Barry Keene, recently came forward to support;
  • Requiring doctors who witness substance abuse by physicians or medical negligence to report it, and protecting those physicians from lawsuits by other doctors when they do.

Why is Bob Pack, our recent Rage for Justice Award-winner, taking on this cause?

Alana and Troy Pack were walking on a sidewalk in Danville with Bob’s wife, Carmen, when a drugged driver fell unconscious at the wheel and swerved off the road, killing the two children and injuring Carmen. The Packs also lost their unborn twins.

The driver, Jimena Barreto, turned out to be a doctor-shopping drug addict who was convicted of second-degree murder and imprisoned for 30 years to life. The Kaiser doctors who prescribed her thousands of pills, however, were never held accountable for their negligence.

Barreto had no physical symptoms, but managed to stockpile narcotics without any oversight.

In the wake of his family’s tragedy, Pack found that Kaiser’s doctors had no idea they were all over-prescribing to the same doctor shopper. There was no computer system tracking prescriptions patients received. Pack drew on his technology background to develop the electronic CURES database, a searchable system that tracks prescriptions dispensed in California. Unfortunately, too few doctors currently use the system. Kaiser does not use the CURES database either.

The Packs were only entitled to the cap of $250,000 for each of their children’s lives, because that is the maximum value of a child’s life under the 37-year-old cap on noneconomic damages signed into law during Jerry Brown’s first term as Governor. The cap is worth merely $58,000 today in 1975 dollars. Adjusting the cap for inflation would increase it to $1.1 million in 2013.

You can read the ballot measure here. You can read Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton’s column on the ballot measure here.

We’re off to the ballot again.

Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Top Ten Dangerous Doctors Are Poster Children for Patient Safety Reform

1:49 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Top Ten Dangerous DoctorsTen doctors that the California Medical Board failed to take off the streets before repeated acts of negligence and patient endangerment harmed or killed their patients make the case for reforming California’s patient safety laws, said Consumer Watchdog today.

Consumer Watchdog released a “Top Ten Dangerous Doctors” list of physicians whose negligence injured or even killed their patients.

These ten dangerous doctors are some of the most egregious overprescribers, repeat offenders, and drug and alcohol users in California. Their stories show the urgent need for action by California lawmakers to replace a Medical Board that has allowed bad doctors to continue to practice, and to raise the outdated cap on patients’ ability to hold negligent doctors accountable in court.

Last month, Consumer Watchdog joined the 38IsTooLate.org coalition to announce a patient safety ballot measure that will raise the cap on damages in medical negligence lawsuits and require physicians to check a prescription drug database before prescribing narcotics. The coalition, including Bob Pack who lost his two children to a drug addict who was overprescribed narcotics, will place the measure on the ballot if the legislature fails to enact patient safety reform legislation this year.

The “Top Ten Dangerous Doctors” who make the case for patient safety reform include:

  • Dr. Van Vu and Dr. Carlos Estiandan, identified as over-prescribers in a Los Angeles Times investigation and who together had at least 25 patients die from prescription drug overdoses. Neither has lost their medical license.
  • Dr. Aria Omar Sabit and Dr. Israel Chambi, neurosurgeons who together have had at least 55 medical malpractice lawsuits filed against them. Chambi continues to practice despite 10 malpractice settlements and having lost his post at two medical centers. No action was taken against Sabit after he moved his practice out of state.
  • Dr. Craig Alan Bittner, Dr. Efrain Gonzalez (and his wife Dr. Yessennia Candelaria), all physicians who practiced cosmetic surgery with no formal training. The three had their licenses suspended or revoked by the Medical Board only after arrests had taken place and at least 21 of their patients were severely disfigured.
  • Dr. Brian West and Dr. Daryl Westerback were each arrested twice for driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. West did not lose his license until nine years after the first complaint against him and being arrested for drunk driving on the way to treat a patient. Westerback, who is accused of treating patients while under the influence, lost his license to prescribe but continues to practice.
  • Dr. Andrew Rutland had his license revoked a decade ago after the deaths of two infants and 15 malpractice claims, but was reinstated five years later. Rutland lost his license again in 2011 after being found responsible for another patient death.
  • Dr. Shane Sheibani, a plastic surgeon who left dozens of patients disfigured, had his license suspended in 2009 but continued to practice and harm patients for three more years before his license was finally revoked.

Reforms being considered in “The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act” include:

  • Raising or repealing the cap on damages in medical malpractice cases.
  • Mandatory drug and alcohol testing for doctors.
  • Full funding of the CURES database and mandatory use by physicians before prescribing narcotics.
  • Medical Board reform including a public member majority, increased transparency of complaints and transferring investigative powers to the Department of Justice.

Top Ten Dangerous Doctors

Top 10 Dangerous Doctors

Dr. Aria Omar Sabit

Neurosurgeon. Twenty lawsuits were filed against Sabit stemming from the 17 months he practiced in Ventura County, alleging misplaced screws in spinal fusions, post-op infections and botched brain surgery. Victims say Sabit made so many mistakes in such a short period of time that Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura and Ventura County Neurosurgical Associates Medical Group should have intervened long before the medical group fired him in December 2010. Attorneys for those patients have dubbed Sabit “The Butcher.” Community Memorial officials said they asked the Medical Board of California to investigate. In February 2012 Medical Board representatives would not comment on the possibility of an investigation involving Sabit, but told a reporter no action had been taken against him since he was licensed to practice in California in 2009. Sabit is now practicing in Michigan.

Dr. Van Vu

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Give my 6-week-old daughter’s death meaning

7:30 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

38 Is Too Late BillboardMy baby Mia died in a hospital at just 6 weeks of age from whooping cough in the middle of a whooping cough epidemic because doctors didn’t give her a simple test.

A 38-year-old law says her life is only worth $250,000 – that is the value of a child in California when they’re harmed by the health care industry. It’s wrong, and it’s the reason medical negligence is so common today – there’s little price to pay when something goes wrong.

We should not have to put up a billboard in Sacramento to get the Legislature’s attention to change the law, but we did. It’s on Highway I-80 so state legislators will consider updating the antiquated law that for the past 38 years has put a discriminatory limit on the value of a precious life like Mia’s.

Will you help me keep this billboard up with a donation today?

You can read more about Mia and watch a video at 38istoolate.org, where you can join our movement to update patient safety laws in California and better protect patients.

Please take a minute to donate and learn more.
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Posted by Alejandra Gonzalez-Chavez, Special to Consumer Watchdog. Follow Consumer Watchdog online on Facebook and Twitter.

My Son’s Life Is Worth More

2:16 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Press ConferenceSince 1975 the value of everything has gone up, except the value of my son’s life under California law.

Last week my son, Steven and I went to Sacramento to say “38 years is too late.” We announced a ballot initiative to create stronger patient safety laws and adjust this nearly 38 year-old law. You can join our efforts by reading our story and others of patients like us at the new site “38 is too late” and liking our Facebook page.

In California, no matter how badly a child is hurt, or even if they are killed by gross medical negligence, the value of their life is only $250,000, an amount set by the Legislature nearly 38 years ago. That’s just not right.

When my son Steven was a toddler, he fell on a stick while hiking near his grandmother’s cabin in the mountains. The hospital pumped Steven up with steroids and sent him away with a growing brain abscess, although we had asked for a CAT scan because we knew Steven was not well. The next day, he came back to the hospital comatose. Medical experts later concluded that had he received the $800 CAT scan, he almost certainly would have been successfully treated.

Today, at 23 years old, Steven is blind and has cerebral palsy. Even though a jury heard our case and said Steven should receive $7.1 million for the horrible losses he will suffer for the rest of his life, the judge reduced the amount to $250,000 under California’s one size fits all cap.

Kathy and Steven OlsenThe jurors only found out that their verdict had been reduced by reading about it in the newspaper. They expressed their outrage, but the Legislature has not heard them, or patients like me. The cap has not been adjusted for almost 38 years, since Governor Brown signed the law in his first administration.

The ballot measure Consumer Watchdog and The Troy and Alana Pack Foundation announced in the Capitol last week would lift the cap so juries can make their own decisions on a case by case basis. The measure also reforms the state’s Medical Board and creates greater disclosure about prescription drug overdoses and the role of dangerous doctors.

The “38 Is Too Late” group will go to the ballot this fall if the Legislature doesn’t act. I hope you will join me in sending a message to lawmakers that they should act and then join our community online on our website and on Facebook.

You can read more about this historic moment from an article in last week’s Los Angeles Times.
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Posted by Kathy Olsen, Board Member of Consumer Watchdog. Follow Consumer Watchdog online on Facebook and Twitter.

Patients Can Change Patient Safety

1:11 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Jamie Court

There aren’t too many great days for patient safety in state capitols, where the medical establishment tends to rule the roost through the power of its political giving and tentacles. But Monday was a great day for patient safety in Sacramento, when powerful testimony reminded legislators of the human cost of inaction.

The families of victims of overprescribing spent an hour and half in the Senate and Assembly Business and Professions Committees and presented some of the most compelling testimony ever heard there. Their stories and faces were felt around the Capitol Tuesday from huge photographs on the front pages of the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times to TV news stories echoing legislative sympathy for reform.

Smick FamilyThe medical establishment is now on the defensive. A Medical Board overhaul is in the air. Debate is turning to the government not protecting patients enough.

Will the clarity these courageous families brought to the failure of California’s laws to protect patient safety grow or wither in the coming days? It’s up to us, but I think it will grow.

Carmen Balber and I asked in an oped in Monday morning’s San Francisco Chronicle whether it wasn’t time to pull the plug on the current physician-run medical board. We wrote:

For decades, the medical board has failed to identify dangerous practice patterns, such as over-prescribing, which should trigger investigation. In fact, the board only acts on complaints by consumers, and then rarely. Once an investigation is begun, it takes years to resolve, too long for patients who may be at imminent risk of harm.

When prosecuted, an enforcement case can stagnate in five layers of review. Sadly, little other deterrence exists to medical negligence.

Those listening to the tragic stories in Sacramento this week could not help but understand the human consequences of such inaction. Sons, daughters, brothers, uncles lost. Preventable deaths.

All because the California Medical Association and the state medical board it controls won’t agree to a $9 increase in physician license fees — the cost of two cappuccinos — for workers to find overprescribing doctors in a state database. And due to the grip of this medical establishment over our regulators and the legal system — where families who lose nonwage earners to dirty doctors cannot get legal representation due to a 38 year-old cap on their recovery.

We called for these changes in Monday’s Chronicle.

A true overhaul of physician discipline would move complaint investigators into the attorney general’s office to work hand in hand with prosecutors and would create a public-member majority on the medical board.

Real reform should also include mandatory random drug testing of high-risk surgeons and physicians – as is mandated now for bus drivers, college athletes and pilots. Finally, the state’s 38-year-old limits on the rights of injured patients need to be revisited, too. It’s time for the public to take the power back for itself.

It’s Wednesday morning. Eyes are wide open. And we are a lot closer to patients taking power back than we were before.

Enough is Enough Family Rally
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Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Blue Cross Suspends Mandatory HIV/AIDS Drug Mail Order Program

2:02 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Pills and Bills

In response to consumer complaints and a class action lawsuit on behalf of HIV/AIDS patients in California, Anthem Blue Cross has agreed to suspend a program that would have barred patients from purchasing certain specialty medications at local pharmacies. Under the program, patients would have been required to obtain their medications by mail order, threatening their health and privacy according to the lawsuit.

Blue Cross announced the suspension of the mail order program in a letter arriving in consumer’s mailboxes this week. Download a copy of the letter here.

“The deferment of the mail order program is great news for thousands of Blue Cross customers with HIV/AIDS who were facing risks to their privacy and health,” said Jerry Flanagan, staff attorney for Consumer Watchdog.

The lawsuit, filed last month in San Diego Superior Court by Consumer Watchdog and Whatley Kallas LLC, alleges that the mandatory mail order program illegally targets HIV/AIDS patients. The lawsuit further alleges that due to the complex nature of HIV/AIDS drug regimens, patients rely on their local pharmacists who, working directly with the patients, monitor potentially life-threatening adverse drug interactions, and provide essential advice and counseling that helps HIV/AIDS patients and their families navigate the challenges of living with a chronic and often debilitating condition.

In addition to the health concerns raised by the change in their continuity of care, HIV/AIDS patients have expressed serious concerns associated with a loss of privacy due to the proposed mail order program. For example, HIV/AIDS specialty medications often need to be delivered in refrigerated containers. Patients who live in apartment buildings or need to have their drugs delivered to their place of employment are concerned that neighbors and co-workers who are not aware of their condition will come to suspect that they are seriously ill.

Under the mail order program announced by Blue Cross in December and slated to go into effect on March 1, 2013, HIV/AIDS patients’ insurance policies would have no longer covered medications purchased at local pharmacies.

The deferment is intended to allow Blue Cross, Consumer Watchdog, and Whatley Kallas LCC time to develop a more consumer friendly program.

“Blue Cross should be commended for listening to the serious and heartfelt concerns of their customers who depend on local pharmacists for their life-saving medications,” said Edith Kallas of Whatley Kallas LLC. “We look forward to working with Blue Cross to ensure its mail order program benefits consumers without unfairly targeting its most vulnerable patients and providing them appropriate opportunities to choose what is best for them.”

Download the lawsuit filed by Consumer Watchdog and Whatley Kallas, LLC here.