Santa Monica, CA – Petitions for a 2014 patient safety ballot initiative to curb prescription drug abuse and strengthen physician accountability hit the streets in every major California city this week. Bob Pack launched the petition drive after losing his two children, Troy and Alana, ages 10 and 7, and unborn twins, in an accident caused by a driver high on drugs and alcohol. The ballot measure addresses the patient safety issues at the heart of his family’s tragedy.
“I introduced this ballot initiative in honor of my children Troy and Alana, to strengthen the state’s patient safety laws so no other family has to suffer the tragedy mine did,” said technology executive Bob Pack.
The Packs discovered the drugged driver had received prescriptions for thousands of pills from multiple doctors at the same hospital, who did not verify she needed the narcotics or check her prescription history. After the accident, Pack worked to create an electronic prescription drug monitoring database, called CURES, to identify prescription drug abusers and overprescribing doctors in California. However, no law mandates that physicians check the database.
The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act would require physicians to check the CURES drug database before prescribing narcotics to a first-time patient, to both identify drug-abusers and allow law enforcement officials and regulators to identify doctors with excessive or reckless prescribing patterns. This year, the medical lobby blocked legislation in Sacramento to enact this simple reform.
Pack also tried to change the prescribing practices of the doctors and Kaiser hospital that had overprescribed narcotics to the driver, but ran up against the 38-year-old cap on how much a family victimized by medical negligence can recover in the death of a child. When Pack tried to sue Kaiser for its negligence and force change, he found that the death of a child in this state is never worth more than $250,000, no matter how egregious the negligence or serious the malpractice. He learned that was not enough to hold Kaiser accountable in court, or prevent future problems for other families. The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act would update that 38-year-old cap for inflation to enable other families to seek justice for lost loved ones and prevent future acts of negligence.
“I am forced to go to the voters after ten years of trying and failing to get real patient safety reform approved by a California legislature that is in thrall to the doctor and insurance lobby and their campaign cash,” said Pack.
Prescription drug abuse has become the leading cause of accidental death in America. In California, San Diego County just released a scorecard that found a 22% increase in prescription drug overdose deaths in the last five years.
Physicians, who have easy access, are more likely to abuse prescription drugs than the general population. The California Medical Board has estimated that 18% of doctors will have an alcohol or drug abuse problem during their careers. The ballot measure would require drug tests of physicians, just as pilots, bus drivers and police officers are already required to undergo, in order to identify physicians with drug or alcohol abuse problems before their substance abuse places patients at risk.
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