Committee OK’s Lara Bill to Require Physicians to Check Prescription Drug Database Before Prescribing Powerful Medications

April 27, 2015

SACRAMENTO, CA – The Senate Business, Professions & Economic Development Committee approve a bill authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) to require prescribers to check the California’s Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) - a state database before prescribing the most addictive medications – to help prevent prescription drug addiction and thousands of overdose deaths. The Committee voted 7 to 1 to advance SB482.  

“Prescription drug overdoses claim tens of thousands of lives every year and nearly 23,000 people died from an overdose of pharmaceuticals in 2013 nationally," said Sen. Lara. “It's time to help save lives by ensuring that prescribers consult the CURES system before prescribing drugs.”

Forty nine states currently have prescription drug monitoring programs in place.[1] In 1996, California enacted the first CURES system, managed by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The system tracks the prescription of schedule II and III narcotics, the strongest pain killers on the market. 

Current law requires all practitioners with licenses to dispense schedule II and III drugs, including doctors, nurses, optometrists, among others, to enroll in CURES by January 1, 2016 or on their license renewal date.  Additionally, DOJ will complete its upgrade of the system to accommodate the new users by January 1, 2016.  However, checking the CURES system continues to be voluntary and many prescribers do not check the database before prescribing schedule II and III drugs.

Lisa Greene Bond, who lost her sister Kristin Rebecca Greene to suicide, provided testimony in support of Lara’s bill: “The medical examiner reported after her autopsy that she  tested positive for 19 other very strong narcotics besides the oxymorhone.  The very sad thing is, she tried to commit suicide 6 weeks before on Oct 5th 2013.   If the doctors and pharmacist had identified the huge amount of narcotics she was taking, we could have had an opportunity to intervene and prevent this needless death.” 
Other states that have required prescribers to check their drug monitoring systems have seen significantly improved public health outcomes. In 2012, Tennessee required prescribers to check the state’s prescription drug monitoring program before prescribing painkillers. Within one year, they saw a 36% drop in patients who were seeing multiple prescribers to obtain the same drugs. In Virginia, the number of doctor-shoppers fell by 73% after use of the database became mandatory. In Oklahoma, which requires mandatory checks for methadone, overdoses fell about 21% in a single year. 

Dr. Clark Smith, board-certified in both Addiction Psychiatry and in Pain Medicine, also testified in support of SB 482.  

“As the medical director of drug and alcohol treatment programs for the past 25 years, I've witnessed an explosion of prescription drug abuse, with a 500 percent increase in overdose deaths from 1999 through 2010,” said Dr. Smith. “Before the CURES database came online, I'd have to tediously chase down all the doctors prescribing pills to my doctor-shopping, addicted patients. And then the patient could just get a new set of doctors to feed their addiction. With the advent of the CURES database, I had a powerful life saving tool that could show me exactly what pills my patients were taking and which doctors were prescribing them.”