Bill to Reverse Opioid Overdose Epidemic Moves Forward in California Assembly

Published on

Sacramento, CA – A California Assembly committee approved a bill today to begin reversing the opioid overdose epidemic and save lives. More people are lost in California to drug overdoses than any other state, and many of those family members testified to their loss today.

The Assembly Business and Professions Committee voted 15-0 to approve SB 482 (Lara), which would require 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.

“We are one step closer to reversing the opioid overdose crisis that claims the lives of thousands of Californians every year. Reviewing a patient’s prescription history gives doctors the information they need to safely prescribe opioids, manage dependence and prevent abuse. It is time all California doctors utilize this life-saving tool,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

According to the California Department of Public Health, 1,895 people died of opioid overdoses in 2013. Another 11,683 – 32 people for every day of the year – ended up in California emergency rooms for non-fatal overdoses and other opioid-related conditions.

Among the families testifying today was Bob Pack, of Danville, who 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.

In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new prescribing guidelines that recommend physicians use prescription drug databases every time they prescribe an opioid.

Many 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 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.


Learn more about Consumer Watchdog online at

Carmen Balber
Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber has been with the organization for nearly two decades. She spent four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office where she advocated for key health insurance market reforms that were ultimately enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Latest Videos

Latest Articles

In The News

Latest Report

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, press releases and special reports.

More articles