A Southern California doctor was ordered to stand trial for second-degree murder Thursday after several of her patients, including a Cal High grad, died from prescription drug overdoses.
According to reports, Dr. Hsui-Ying "Lisa" Tseng gave prescriptions for highly addictive drugs such as OxyCotin and Xanax after hasty examinations and minimum questions. The decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar de Longoria came down after a three-week preliminary hearing where she was portrayed as the go-to doctor for people seeking drugs, the Washington Post reported.
Tseng has supposedly been under investigation by the state Medical Board and DEA since 2008, when a pharmacy reported problems with her prescriptions; the doctor is thought to have written 25 prescriptions a day for three years. There was testimony of nearly a dozen patients who died of overdoses, though only three were charged by prosecutors as solely cased by Tseng's prescriptions.
Joey Rovero, a 21-year-old Arizona State University student who died from a prescription drug overdose on Dec. 18, 2009, was prescribed 90 30-mg. strength Oxycodone, 90 Soma and 30 Xanax by Tseng. The Cal High alum was supposed to take one Xanax, three Soma and three Oxycodone every day, his mother, April, told the Express.
"She continued to prescribe these narcotics in high doses even after she was told something was terribly wrong and young men were overdosing and dying," Villar de Longoria said.
According to the Post, Villar de Longoria cited testimony about one man who received an opiate prescription, went to the restroom in Tseng's office and overdosed, requiring medical attention. More than 40 witnesses testified in all, including law enforcement, Tseng's staff and family of patients.
Rowland Heights-based Tseng is accused of writing more than 27,000 prescriptions over a three-year period and pleaded not guilty to 24 felony counts. If convicted, she could serve 45 years to life in connection with the deaths of Rovero, 29-year-old Vu Nguyen and 25-year-old Steven Ogle.
The judge denied a defense request to have Tseng's bail lowered from $3 million to $1 million. She has been in custody since her arrest in March.
"Doctors in general need to be better trained in how to safely and responsibly prescribe addictive and dangerous narcotics, especially those used to manage pain and anxiety, as they are among the ones most abused," said Rovero, who founded the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse after her son's death.
The DEA suspended Tseng's license to write prescriptions in 2010 and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California said Tseng voluntarily surrendered her medical license. She will reappear in court on July 10.