SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) -- Under a new bill, California Attorney General Kamala Harris would take over investigations of the state's medical board.

The board would still license doctors, but its staff would work with deputy attorneys general on investigations into "dangerous" physicians.

According to the Sacramento Business Journal, new language in Senate Bill 304 would move board investigators under a section of the state Department of Justice that specializes in handling doctor discipline.

Last week, state Sen. Curren Price, a Democrat and chair of the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, amended the legislation.

"They will be in the same office, have the same management oversight and work with the same electronic record system and be able to fully coordinate their activities from top to bottom," Price told the Business Journal in a statement.

Earlier this month, Price sent a strongly-worded letter to Sharon Levine, president of the Medical Board of California, questioning its enforcement of regulations that protect consumers from dangerous physicians.

The letter was sent to the MBC to emphasize "the critical importance" of addressing the issues raised in a hearing held last month.

If the board doesn't comply with the directives issued by the committees, Price said the law extending the MBC will not be continued and the board will be dissolved as of Jan. 1, 2014.

"Enforcement issues with the MBC have been a strong focus of the California Legislature for a number of years," the letter stated. "It is imperative that the MBC take swift and certain action to protect consumers."

During last month's hearing, state lawmakers heard testimony from the MBC in response to the issues raised in a background paper prepared by the committee. They also listened to representatives from various consumer groups and organizations.

"Consumer groups have criticized the MBC for its failure to protect patients from doctors who over-prescribe dangerous drugs. The media has also raised serious questions about the consumer protection performance of the MBC in protecting consumers from dangerous physicians," Price's letter stated.

Among the issues his letter addressed were enforcement program shortfalls exposed in a 2012 Los Angeles Times' report that examined cases where medical doctors continued to practice and prescribe medication to patients when multiple patients of the doctor had died of an overdose of drugs prescribed by the doctors.

The letter also clarified the board's authority to initiate complaints against a physician and take a proactive approach to enforcement.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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