Opioid Reform Gains Ground Despite Docs' Opposition

A major reform bill to prevent opioid addiction took a big step forward today with a 20-0 bipartisan vote in the Assembly Appropriations committee. Under SB 482, doctors in California would be required to use a life-saving medical tool to help them prescribe painkillers safely. The bill heads to the Assembly Floor later this month.

To safely prescribe opioids, doctors have to know a patient's medical history, including prescriptions. SB 482 requires doctors to check the state prescription drug database, called CURES, before prescribing opioids and other addictive medications for the first time.

Bob Pack has been fighting for prescribing reform since he lost his two young children in an accident caused by a woman who had been recklessly prescribed narcotics. A technology executive, Bob was responsible for creating the electronic prescription database with then-Attorney General Jerry Brown. When it became clear physicians weren't using it, he worked in the legislature and at the ballot to require its use. SB 482 would enact that change. 

Major federal, state and private authorities – from the Centers for Disease Control to the California Medical Board – agree that prescription histories must be consulted when prescribing narcotics. We know it works: States that already have a mandate have seen notable drops in opioid prescriptions, doctor shoppers and overdoses. Yet the California Medical Association continues to oppose this common-sense rule for prescribing. Why? One reason is that people like doctors way more than they like the big pharmaceutical companies, who have been suspiciously silent on the bill. Or it could be because doctors, and the California Medical Association in particular, make big bucks from the drug companies.

California doctors received more than a quarter of a billion dollars in direct and indirect payments from drug and medical-device manufacturers in 2015 alone. At least five doctors on the CMA’s Board of Trustees were among those who received sizeable payments from manufacturers.

The drug industry has also contributed at least a half million dollars directly to the CMA.
Transparency reports filed by Pfizer, Genentech and AstraZeneca reveal those companies made donations and grants totaling $754,000 directly to CMA and its foundation over the past eight years. The lion’s share of the declared payments were made by Pfizer: $467,000 to CMA and $260,000 to CMA’s sister foundation.

That money, directly or indirectly, subsidizes the salaries paid to CMA’s executive officers. Those same officers committed CMA to oppose SB 482. They also chose to provide cover for Big Pharma in its campaign against Proposition 61, a November ballot initiative that would put California on the road to lower drug prices for everyone. Prop 61 will require the State of California to pay no more for prescription drugs than is paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which negotiates drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies and pays 20-24% less on average for drugs than other government agencies, and 40% less than Medicare.

More about Proposition 61 here: www.YesOn61.com

Under a resource-sharing agreement with Consumer Watchdog, Capitol Watchdog staff is partially paid for by Consumer Watchdog Campaign - Yes on 61, Major Funding by Yes on Prop 61, Californians for Lower Drug Prices, With Major Funding by AIDS Healthcare Foundation and California Nurses Association PAC.

Capitol Watchdog is owned and operated by nonprofit Consumer Watchdog. For more information about Consumer Watchdog visit http://www.consumerwatchdog.org