Friday, March 27, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Sun reporters Marshall Allen and Alex Richards have won a national journalism award in a competition that recognizes excellence in the media’s coverage of health care issues.
Allen was one of only two reporters in the country who have won recognition from the Association of Health Care Journalists in two consecutive years, and one of two to win two awards in this year’s contest.
Last year, Allen took second place in the category best health care beat reporter in the country among all journalists. First place went to a reporter from The New York Times.
Allen and Richards were cited Thursday for their investigative work in identifying Nevada residents as the nation’s highest users per capita of the narcotic painkiller hydrocodone — better known by the brand names Vicodin and Lortab — based on a computer analysis of a Drug Enforcement Administration database of controlled substances. Nevadans ranked fourth in the nation in consumption of methadone, morphine and oxycodone, they found.
Their series, “The New Addiction,” included reports of patients’ deaths from the use of prescription painkillers, and singled out one physician, Dr. Kevin Buckwalter, for his practice of prescribing narcotics without medical justification. Buckwalter has since been banned by state and federal authorities from prescribing controlled substances.
Allen’s and Richards’ work was awarded third place for overall health care reporting among medium-circulation U.S. newspapers. First and second places went to newspapers in Pittsburgh and Seattle.
Allen also won second place nationally among all newspapers in the category of best single health care story under 1,500 words for the story “Providers close doors to poor.” The story showed how Medicaid cutbacks are a shortsighted way to save money because untreated patients cost hospitals more money in the long run.
First place in that category went to a reporter at the Los Angeles Times.
Other winners in this year’s contest included reporters at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, the Dallas Morning News and Bloomberg News.