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Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 23:31
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem nationally with the State of New Mexico in the lead when it comes to the highest drug overdose rate in the country.
In the last decade the number of overdose deaths from legal prescribed drugs has surpassed the number of overdoses from drugs like cocaine and heroine.
"When they're abused they can be dangerous and even deadly and the misconception is since they are not illegal they are not as bad," said Drug Enforcement Administration Spokesperson Diana Apodaca.
Some might argue the number of overdose deaths can be related to doctors over prescribing pain medication.
In Las Cruces the New Mexico Board of Medicine suspended the license of Neurologist Dr. Pawan Kumar Jain in early July. In his suspension order they said he is linked to 17 drug-toxicity related deaths while those patients were under his care.
His office on Telshor Boulevard has been closed ever since and the voicemail recording says the office will reopen July 31st.
Jain has a hearing scheduled with the board of medicine on August 20th. The board will then determine if they reinstate, revoke or continue suspending Jain's license.
DEA raided the Jain's office earlier this year.
They could not provide specific details, but said in a statement it's their obligation to investigate potential violations.
DEA works with various agency to help prevent prescription drug abuse.
One of those programs is New Mexico's Prescription Monitoring Program founded in 2005. The program requires weekly reports from doctors on what medicines they give patients.
"We have law enforcement agencies that will get reports from the drug monitoring program on the cases involving the diversion of drugs," said Larry Loring, administrator for the program.
Loring said the system works as a database monitor drugs used for medical purposes that are strong enough to be abused.
DEA looks at those reports as well as reports from other agencies.
"We work closely with them, but we also work closely with the medical board and with anybody who we can allocate our resources with resources in order to make our job more successful," Apodaca said.
Loring said the program cannot determine if a doctor is over prescribing, but they can tell who is prescribing the most.
At top that list was Dr. Pawan Kumar Jain with more than 3 million prescriptions to less than 4 thousand patients.
In Jain's suspension order, it reads he was in the practice of, "excessive prescribing or administering of drugs."
The report doesn't say what drugs Jain was prescribing. Loring said they have seen a spike in opioid sales in recent years.
"The two drugs we've had the most problem with the last two years are hydrocodone and oxycodone," Loring said. "In the last two years it's been primarily oxycodone."
Since 2001 sales have increased almost 300 percent. During that time overdose deaths have also increased.
In 2010, 468 people died from overdoses in New Mexico, according to the department of health.