BY SCOTT GLOVER, LISA GIRION.
Prescription overdoses kill more people than heroin and cocaine. An L.A. Times review of coroners’ records finds that drugs prescribed by a small number of doctors caused or contributed to a disproportionate number of deaths.
Terry Smith collapsed face-down in a pool of his own vomit.
Lynn Blunt snored loudly as her lungs slowly filled with fluid.
Summer Ann Burdette was midway through a pear when she stopped breathing.
Larry Carmichael knocked over a lamp as he fell to the floor.
Jennifer Thurber was curled up in bed, pale and still, when her father found her.
Karl Finnila sat down on a curb to rest and never got up.
hese six people died of drug overdoses within a span of 18 months. But according to coroners’ records, that was not all they had in common. Bottles of prescription medications found at the scene of each death bore the name of the same doctor: Van H. Vu.
After Finnila died, coroner’s investigators called Vu to learn about his patient’s medical history and why he had given him prescriptions for powerful medications, including the painkiller hydrocodone.
Investigators left half a dozen messages. Vu never called back, coroner’s records state.
Over the next four years…
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