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The second-degree murder convictions last October of a Los Angeles-area physician were the first against a U.S. doctor for prescribing massive quantities of addictive and dangerous drugs to patients with no legitimate need, three of whom died of overdoses. A jury of 10 women and two men found Hsiu Ying “Lisa” Tseng, 45, guilty of 23 counts, including 19 counts of unlawful controlled substance prescription and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. The guilty verdict marks the first time in the United States where a doctor was convicted of murder for overprescribing drugs.

Tseng was convicted of second-degree murder for the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 28, of Lake Forest; Steven Ogle, 24, of Palm Desert; and Joseph Rovero, 21, an Arizona State University student from San Ramon. Nguyen died March 2, 2009. Ogle died a month later on April 9, 2009. Rovero died Dec. 18, 2009. All were patients of Tseng, who prescribed a myriad of drugs for the three young men.

Tseng, licensed to practice in 1997, opened a storefront medical office in Rowland Heights in 2005. During the timeframe when nine of her patients died in less than three years, Tseng took in $5 million from her clinic and continued dispensing potent and addictive drugs unabated.

Tseng surrendered her license to practice medicine in February 2012 and has been behind bars in lieu of $3 million bail since her March 2012 arrest.

This month she was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for the overdose deaths, in a case that could change how doctors prescribe medication.

The 46-year-old mother of two, wearing blue jail scrubs, apologized to the families of her victims, but the judge sentenced her based on Tseng refusing to take responsibility for her actions during the trial and blaming her patients or pharmacists or even other doctors instead. “[She’]) a person who seemingly did not care about the lives of her patients in this case but rather appeared more concerned about distributing dangerous controlled substances in an assembly line fashion so as to collect payments which amounted to her amassing several million dollars,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli said.

But April Rovero, the mother of one of the victims, was mostly unmoved by Tseng’s apologies. Her son, Joey, died after mixing Xanax and oxycodone — which he had both been prescribed by Tseng — with alcohol. “It feels too late,” Rovero said outside the courtroom. “But it was better to hear something than nothing. But Rovero, who, founded the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse after her son’s death, praised the sentence. “Justice has been served,” she said.

Outside the courtroom, Peter Osinoff, who represented Tseng before the state medical board said Tseng’s prosecution has had a negative impact on physicians and patients. “The doctors are scared out of their minds,” he said. “The pendulum has swung so far. The people who need [pain medication] can’t get it now.”

Other medical experts have echoed his concerns since Tseng was charged in 2012. “When you use the word ‘murder,'” said Dr. Peter Staats, president of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, “of course it’s going to have a chilling effect.” Staats said he believes an aggressive medical board — not prosecutors — should go after reckless doctors. But, he added, any doctor who is prescribing pills knowing that they are being abused or diverted shouldn’t be called a doctor.