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Obama Headlining Summit To Fight Rx & Heroin Abuse Epidemic

California Bill Implements Call To Prevent Opioid Over-Prescribing By Requiring Doctors To Check Prescription Drug Monitoring Database
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Carmen Balber

Santa Monica, CA – President Obama will give the keynote address at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit tomorrow where prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are being highlighted as essential tools to reduce prescription abuse.

A California bill would implement this prevention strategy by requiring physicians to check California’s prescription drug database before prescribing opiates. California’s database, known as CURES, is highlighted in summit materials as “the nation’s most advanced PDMP,” however just 35% of California providers and dispensers use it.

“President Obama’s attention marks opioid overdose as one of the greatest public health threats of our time. California loses 4500 people a year to preventable drug overdose, more than any other state in the nation. The legislature can help stem this tide of abuse by requiring doctors to check the prescription database before recommending patients take the most dangerous and addictive drugs. It’s clear that making use of the database voluntary does not work,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

SB 482 by California state Senator Ricardo Lara would require physicians to check California’s Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) database when prescribing Schedule II or III drugs like Oxycontin to a patient for the first time, and annually thereafter if the treatment continues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new prescribing guidelines that recommend physicians use prescription drug databases every time they prescribe an opioid. Last month, Obama proposed $1.2 billion in new federal funding to raise the ante in the fight against opioid abuse, including funds to expand the use of state prescription drug databases.

In January, the California Attorney General’s office announced that a two-year $3.6 million upgrade to the CURES database was complete. Every health care provider licensed to prescribe or dispense medications must register to access the database by July 1, 2016.

Twenty-two states already mandate use of state prescription databases, and those that track results have seen reduced doctor-shopping, lower opioid prescription rates, and physician appreciation for the utility of the databases to inform prescribing.

•    New York saw a 75% drop in patients seeing multiple prescribers for the same drugs.
•    Kentucky found opioid prescriptions to doctor-shopping individuals fell 54%, and overdose-related deaths declined for the first time in six years in 2013.
•    Tennessee saw a 36% drop in patients who were seeing multiple prescribers to obtain the same drugs. Tennessee prescribers report they are: 41 percent less likely to prescribe controlled substances after checking the database; 34 percent more likely to refer a patient for substance abuse treatment; and, 86 percent of prescribers report that the database is useful for decreasing doctor shopping.

The CDC awarded the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) $3.7 million through 2019 to improve prescribing of opioid painkillers. The CDPH plan emphasizes maximizing use of the CURES drug monitoring program.  

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