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Doctors are more confident in prescribing pain medication after reviewing a patient’s medical history.

We’ve received a few messages from patients worried that a proposal to have doctors check a patient’s medical history before prescribing powerful pain medications could prevent or delay them from getting their medicine. In fact, all the evidence shows the opposite.

The bill, SB 482 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, will help doctors identify patients who are “doctor-shopping,” prevent accidental or intentional overdoses and protect innocent bystanders. These medications  – such as OxyContin and other opioids – are already reported by pharmacists to a database called CURES for short. SB 482 will simply require doctors to use it.

But what this bill won’t do is interfere in your relationship with your doctor. What it also won’t do is frighten doctors from prescribing needed drugs.

Look at the evidence: A study of emergency department doctors who used a prescription monitoring program actually led some of them to increase pain medication prescriptions. 

Having a patient’s prescription history can, and often does, confirm for a doctor who might otherwise be concerned about prescribing opiates that the patient is legitimate, not a possible doctor shopper.

A recent survey in Massachusetts found that 85 percent of doctors said that viewing this history increased their confidence in how or whether to prescribe controlled substances for the patient.

Another study out of North Carolina provides evidence that a CURES-type system won’t have a "chilling effect" on providing legitimate pain medication.

In the end, believe in the doctors whose expertise is in pain medicine. The American Academy of Pain Medicine – representing doctors whose job it is to help patients deal with pain - supports a requirement that doctors check a patient’s history before prescribing pain medication.