Obama Administration Doubles Down On Fight Against Opioid Abuse With $1.2 Billion In Proposed New Funding

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Santa Monica, CA – President Obama proposed another $1.2 billion in federal funding to raise the ante in the fight against opioid abuse, including funds to expand the use of state prescription drug databases. A California bill would implement this prevention strategy by requiring physicians to check California’s prescription drug database before prescribing opiates.  

“California loses 12 people every day to preventable drug overdose, more than any other state in the nation. By requiring doctors to get the facts on a patient’s history before prescribing narcotics we can turn the tide on opioid overprescribing,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

SB 482 by state Senator Ricardo Lara would require physicians to check the California’s Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) drug monitoring program database when prescribing Schedule II or III drugs like oxycontin to a patient for the first time, and annually thereafter if the treatment continues. The bill passed the state Senate last year and now heads to the Assembly.

In January, the Attorney General’s office announced that CURES 2.0, a two-year $1.9 million upgrade to the CURES database, was open to all physicians and pharmacists.  Every health care provider licensed to prescribe or dispense medications must register to access the database by July 1, 2016.

Ten states that already mandate use of state prescription databases have seen reduced doctor-shopping, lower opioid prescription rates, and physician appreciation for the utility of the databases to inform prescribing.

•    New York saw a 75% drop in patients seeing multiple prescribers for the same drugs.
•    Kentucky found opioid prescriptions to doctor-shopping individuals fell 54%, and overdose-related deaths declined for the first time in six years in 2013.
•    Tennessee saw a 36% drop in patients who were seeing multiple prescribers to obtain the same drugs. Tennessee prescribers report they are: 41 percent less likely to prescribe controlled substances after checking the database; 34 percent 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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously awarded the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) $3.7 million through 2019 to improve prescribing of opioid painkillers. The CDPH plan emphasizes maximizing use of CURES.

CDC is finalizing new opioid prescribing guidelines that recommend physicians use prescription drug databases to curb overprescribing.  

Read Consumer Watchdog’s comments on those guidelines: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/consumer-watchdog-urges-cdc-move-quickly-implement-guidelines-rein-opioid-overprescribin

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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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