By the end of this year, the state’s prescription drug monitoring program may run out of money. California is about to stop funding for a database that monitors prescription drug use and abuse, unless people like Robert Pack can convince state lawmakers that the program is very important.
On Monday, before the hearing on a bill that would increase funding for CURES, Pack told that “I lost my 10-year-old son Troy and my 7-year-old daughter Alana to a doctor shopper”. 9 years ago, Pack was walking with his family in their Danville neighborhood when a woman driving 45 miles-an-hour hit and killed 2 of his kids. After the incident, Pack came to know that physicians at Kaiser Permanente had given her thousands of prescriptions. “She had received 315 Vicodin, 180 Flexeril muscle relaxants — and took them all prior to that accident”.
Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) requires pharmacists to report any prescriptions of controlled substances to the state Department of Justice. Law enforcement uses this program for monitoring the prescritions of doctors suspected of giving too many addictive pain medications. Doctors also query the database to determine whether patients are “doctor shopping,” or seeking potent drugs from different sources to feed an addiction. The data is also used by the Special Justice Department agents for signs of criminal use of prescription drugs.
On Monday, Attorney General Kamala Harris said, “We can’t let any more time pass on this. We need to fund this. Each day matters, and each day someone is out there abusing drugs or a physician is abusing the rights of their license and they need to be caught.” He is sponsoring SB 809 to modernize CURES. This bill increases fees on prescribing professionals and taxes drug manufacturers for increasing the necessary $6 million a year.
CMA board member Dr. Bob Wailes said, “Before I prescribe a potent narcotic on a new patient I would always want to see what their prescription history was. If they’re addicted to medicine we want to know about it. If they’re diverting the medicines to other people and selling, we need to be aware of that so we don’t keep giving them prescriptions”. According to him, any legislation to boost the funding for CURES should also make it easier for doctors to participate.
SB809 is opposed by the California Retailers Association.
Before filling a prescription, the legislation would require its members to consult the CURES database.
Association president Bill Dombrowski said, “The actual program as it exists today has been so poorly funded; it’s really not practical for our usage”. According to him, it can take 6 weeks for CURES database managers to answer an email query. No one’s going to want to wait that long for a prescription. He said, “Let’s talk after you get it working about how we can use it and participate in it. But let’s not put in a statute that says we have to participate in something that isn’t even fixed yet”.
Lawmakers passed the measure by 7-2. On 1st of July, funding for the CURES database will run out if the bill fails.
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