California Senate Approves Legislation Requiring Physicians To Check State Database Before Prescribing Powerful, Addictive Medications

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Santa Monica, CA – Today, the California State Senate approved legislation to require doctors to check a state prescription database before prescribing the most addictive medications to help prevent prescription drug addiction and thousands of overdose deaths.

SB 482, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, will require prescribers to check the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) before prescribing Schedule II and III drugs, like OxyContin and other opioids, for the first time to a patient, and annually if the course of narcotic treatment continues.

“Prescription drug overdose kills thousands every year, but a simple check of a patient’s medical record can give doctors the information they need to intervene with those who are at risk or may be abusing medications. Requiring doctors to check California’s prescription database before prescribing the strongest, most addictive drugs will save lives and help stem the overdose epidemic,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

In a bipartisan vote, 28 supported the bill while 11 opposed. The bill now goes to the state Assembly.

Prescription drug overdose is the nation’s leading cause of accidental death, killing more people than heroin, cocaine or even traffic accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nine other states require doctors to check their state’s prescription drug database, according to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Center of Excellence at Brandeis University. Other states that require use of a CURES-type database – New York, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia – have seen dramatic reductions in the number of doctor-shoppers and opiate prescriptions. Opiate painkiller prescriptions declined between 7 and 10 percent in these states, and “doctor-shopping” by addicts fell by as much as 75 percent.

Tennessee’s database reported to the Tennessee General Assembly in February that: 41 percent of prescribers report that they are less likely to prescribe controlled substances after checking the database; 34 percent of prescribers are 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.

SB 482 can also mean significant savings for the state and local governments by reducing health care costs. A 75 percent drop in doctor-shopping in California, as experienced in New York, would reduce state and local spending on prescription drugs for Medi-Cal patients by up to $300 million a year.

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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.

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