Sacramento, CA – With a unanimous vote the California Assembly approved SB 482 today, legislation that will begin reversing the opioid overdose epidemic by requiring doctors to check patients’ prescription histories before prescribing. The bill now heads to the Senate for concurrence before being sent to the governor.
“California loses more people to opioid overdoses than any other state and opioid overprescribing devastates thousands of California families every year. Reviewing a patient’s prescription history gives doctors the information they need to safely prescribe opioids, manage dependence and prevent abuse. We applaud the Assembly for taking action to ensure all California doctors utilize this life-saving tool,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.
Opioid prescribing has quadrupled since 2009 and overdose deaths have skyrocketed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified overprescribing of opioids as a central cause of the crisis. The CDC, American Medical Association, California Medical Board, and academic and medical professionals across the country have recommended physicians use prescription databases as a key tool to improve pain treatment and reduce misuse, abuse and overdose.
SB 482 implements that recommendation by requiring doctors to have a patient’s prescription history in hand before prescribing opioids and other potentially dangerous drugs. It requires physicians to check a patient’s prescription history in the state Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) database, before prescribing an opioid or other controlled substance, and to check again every four months if treatment continues.
Bob Pack, of Danville, lost his two young children, 7 year-old Alana and 10 year-old Troy, when they were run over by a driver high on drugs and alcohol. The driver had been recklessly prescribed narcotics by seven different doctors at the same hospital who didn’t check her symptoms, or prescription history. Pack’s advocacy spurred creation of the modern CURES prescription database, and he has fought for a decade in the legislature and at the ballot to ensure doctors use this life-saving tool. Families across the state who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction and abuse have organized in support of SB 482.
At least sixteen states have enacted similar laws requiring physicians to periodically check prescription-monitoring programs before prescribing opioids. According to the PMP Center of Excellence at Brandeis University, New York saw a 75% reduction in doctor shopping after the first year of use. Kentucky saw opioid prescriptions fall 8.5% in its first year. A Tennessee survey of physicians about use of its database found that: 41 percent report they are less likely to prescribe controlled substances after checking it; 34 percent report they are more likely to refer a patient for substance abuse treatment; and, 86 percent report that the database is useful for decreasing doctor shopping.
In January, the California Attorney General’s office announced that a two-year $3.6 million upgrade to California’s prescription database, known as “CURES,” was complete. Every health care provider licensed to prescribe or dispense medications was required to register to access the CURES database by July 1 of this year.
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