Checking A Patient’s Medical Record Is Just Good Medicine

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Check a patient’s medical record. It’s a simple fix to a tragic prescription drug epidemic.

When you have an annual checkup, your doctor checks your vital signs and draws blood for testing. But before she even does that, what does she do? She checks your medical record.

And yet, 90 percent of California doctors who prescribe strong, addictive medications don’t check a patient’s medication history before signing a prescription.

A bill currently making its way through the California legislature, SB 482 by Senator Ricardo Lara, will change that.

These medications  – such as OxyContin and other opioids – are already reported by pharmacists to a database, called CURES for short, run by the California Attorney General’s office.

SB 482 will require doctors to use it. The bill passed its first legislative committee last night on a 7-1 vote. It will help doctors identify addicted patients they might not otherwise identify as “doctor-shoppers.” It will help protect patients from accidental or intentional overdose, like Kristin Greene. Kristen’s sister, Lisa Bond, was in Sacramento yesterday to tell her story.

Kristin suffered from post-partum depression, began to take strong prescription medicine to help and became addicted. Despite desperate attempts by family members to help, Kristin committed suicide by overdosing on these prescription narcotics. Found in her room, after her death, were 90 prescriptions bottles from nine different doctors. If the doctors had known about the other prescriptions, Kristin’s death might have been prevented.

And it will help prevent the collateral damage incurred by innocent bystanders from addicts: People like ten-year-old Troy Pack and his seven-year-old sister Alana. Both were hit and killed by a drugged driver while walking down a sidewalk in their Bay Area neighborhood. The driver was high on prescription drugs she had obtained from six different doctors at the same hospital, who never bothered to check her prescription history of stocking up on thousands of pills. Troy and Alana’s dad, Bob Pack, has been fighting to change state law to require doctors to review a patient’s medical records before prescribing these drugs.

Let us be clear: This bill will not get in the way of anyone who needs pain medication and does not put any limits or new requirements on a doctor’s medical decisions. It simply requires doctors to look at a patient’s prescription history before prescribing. The medical decisions are all left with the doctor, they just have a little more information to make them with.  Giving your doctor more information about your medical condition will only help them provide you with better medical care.


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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