Consumer Watchdog Campaign: Prop 46 Requiring Physicians To Check Statewide Prescription Drug Database Can Save Up To $406 Million Annually

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SANTA MONICA, CA – Proposition 46 can save California taxpayers up to $406 million annually by requiring doctors to check California’s statewide prescription drug database before prescribing narcotics to first time patients, according to a report released by Consumer Watchdog today. Dr. Stephen Loyd, a recovering prescription drug addict from Tennessee, spoke about his state’s success in reducing prescription drug “doctor-shopping” after mandating that physicians check Tennessee’s database before prescribing. Dr. Loyd also spoke openly about his experience practicing medicine while abusing prescription drugs in support of Proposition 46’s provision requiring random drug tests of doctors.

Bob Pack, the proponent of Proposition 46 who lost two young children to a high driver who had been recklessly prescribed narcotics, said: “The driver who killed my children was able to because six different doctors at the same hospital prescribed thousands of pills to an addict.  I helped create CURES, California’s statewide prescription drug database, so doctors would have patient prescription information at their fingertips. But instead of preventing harm, only a handful of prescribers are even registered to use it. Requiring doctors to check the database will save lives, and at the same time can save California taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in reduced prescription drug and law enforcement costs every year.”

“Doctor-shopping plummeted after Tennessee required mandatory checks of our statewide prescription drug database, and Tennessee has become a leader in the fight against prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths,” said Dr. Stephen Loyd, an internal medicine physician and recovering substance abuser.

Dr. Loyd also spoke of his own struggle with prescription drug abuse: “I reached the point where I was taking 100 pills a day while practicing medicine. I thought I was a better doctor when I was actually placing my patients’ lives at risk. My colleagues knew something was wrong, but no one ever confronted me. We can’t police ourselves. That’s why Proposition 46’s random drug and alcohol testing of doctors is so necessary.” Dr. Loyd is the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy 2014 Advocate for Action.

By requiring mandatory checks of the CURES database, Proposition 46 could save California taxpayers up to $299 million annually by reducing the numbers of doctor-shoppers on Medi-Cal, up to $95 million in reduced criminal justice costs, and up to $12 million in savings from lost productivity for a total projected savings of up to $406 million annually.

Read the analysis of projected savings:

Several states have recently begun requiring physicians to use statewide prescription drug databases in order to curb doctor-shopping, overprescribing, and overdose deaths. In Tennessee, the number of prescriptions fell 7% while the number of doctor-shoppers was slashed 36% in the first year. In New York, the number of patient queries jumped from 11,000 per month to 42,000 per day and the number of doctor-shoppers plummeted 75%. In Virginia, doctor-shoppers declined 73% after use of the database became mandatory. In Oklahoma, which requires mandatory checks for methadone, methadone overdoses fell about 21% in a single year.

In 2013, SB 809 (DeSaulnier) fully funded the CURES database by appropriating $3.4 million in its first year and $1.5 million annually thereafter.

Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic.

Last week, Consumer Watchdog released statistics from a survey on substance use among workers by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services, reporting an average of 511,000 medical professionals, or 6.8% of the total in the field, will abuse or have a dependence on drugs or alcohol annually.

Read the HHS report (page 133):

Proposition 46, the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, will:

•    Enact the first law in the nation to require random drug and alcohol tests of physicians in hospitals, modeled after the Federal Aviation Administration testing program that has successfully reduced substance abuse by pilots;
•    Require immediate suspension and investigation by the state Medical Board upon a confirmed positive drug or alcohol test – currently investigations by the Medical Board can take years;
•    Require that physicians check the state’s existing prescription drug database before prescribing narcotics and other addictive drugs to first-time patients – currently less than 6% of doctors check the database to identify drug-seeking patients;
•    And, promote justice for patients and legal deterrence to wrongdoing by adjusting California’s cap on compensation for victims of medical negligence to account for 39 years of inflation – the unadjusted cap prevent many victims from holding doctors who harm them accountable.

Learn more about Proposition 46 and the campaign for patient safety at:

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Paid for by Yes on Prop. 46, Your Neighbors for Patient Safety, a Coalition of Consumer Attorneys and Patient Safety Advocates – major funding by Consumer Attorneys of California Issues and Initiative Defense Political Action Committees and Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis, Inc.

Jamie Court
Jamie Court
Consumer Watchdog's President and Chairman of the Board is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. The author of three books, he has led dozens of campaigns to reform insurance companies, financial institutions, energy companies, political accountability and health care companies.

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