Eight deaths of patients of Oklahoma City doctor Cecil Allen Moore, and others like them, expose troubling gaps in the state's system for combating an epidemic that has seen Oklahoma surge to near the top of national rankings for prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, the Oklahoman reports. In 2012, unintentional prescription drug overdoses claimed the lives of 534 Oklahomans. State health authorities say about half of them had taken drugs prescribed by their own doctors.
While much of Oklahoma's enforcement efforts are aimed at drug-seekers, far less effort is dedicated to identifying, investigating and pursuing the problem providers — the doctors who supply the sometimes deadly dosages. Despite the fact that almost one out of every two overdose deaths involves a drug the person was prescribed legally, state investigators don't check regularly to see whether the prescriber might be linked to other overdose deaths. In some instances, that allowed problem prescribers to escape detection by regulators and to continue to overprescribe, in some cases for years, leading to additional deaths and injuries, an investigation by The Oklahoman and Oklahoma Watch found.