How Far Will Legislature Go in Fight Against Prescription Abuse?

An August hearing on how to end prescription drug abuse looms as the Legislature seeks new ways to stop the epidemic. 

In recent months, the state Senate passed bills to curtail overprescribing of psychotropic medication to foster youth and that require physicians to use a prescription drug database. But it’s unclear if lawmakers would push for a ban on pharmaceutical drug-maker payments to physicians that could create conflicts of interest between a foster care physician’s financial interests and the health needs of their patients.

A Bay Area News Group investigation revealed that drug manufacturers paid or spent more than $14 million on doctors who prescribe drugs in the foster care system. Prescribers in the foster care system received more than twice as much as the typical California doctor in payments from big drug companies for meals, gifts, travel, speaking and industry-sponsored research. Frequent prescribers of foster youth were generally rewarded the most, according to the report. In 2013, the higher prescribers, on average, collected almost four times more than the lower prescribers.

Since state agencies collect data that would reveal inappropriate prescribing patterns by physicians, the Department of Health Care Services and the Department of Social Services should publicly disclose which doctors are prescribing to foster youth, how many prescriptions they wrote, the type, quantity and dosage of those prescriptions and year-to-year prescribing trends. 

Aside from the mandatory prescription database bill, other bills now in the Assembly provide better monitoring, treatment and training to address excessive use of mind-altering medications on foster youth by physicians and homes in the foster care system.

Since the momentum is already there help juveniles and adults, and to finally end prescription drug abuse, the public should ask how far is the Legislature willing to go? 

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