Medical Board Unanimously Supports CURES

The California Medical Board, in an unanimous vote, Thursday to support a bill that would require doctors to check a state prescription database before prescribing the most addictive medications – like OxyContin and other opioids – to help prevent prescription drug addiction and thousands of overdose deaths.

The Board has long been criticized for its lax oversight of physicians and tepid investigations of doctors accused of negligent behavior. The Los Angeles Times did an explosive series a few years ago that exposed how overprescribing doctors who were contributing to the drug abuse epidemic were ignored, prompting legislative hearings. Of late, the Board has appeared to be more aggressive at policing physicians and taking its mandate for protecting patients seriously. Its supportive stance on this recent bill bolsters that view.

SB 482, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, will require prescribers to check the state’s prescription database known as CURES before prescribing Schedule II and III drugs for the first time to a patient, and annually if the course of narcotic treatment continues. More than a dozen consumer rights organization and patient advocacy groups have signed on. They point to mounting evidence that without mandatory use, similar to what nine other states have, physicians will not use the database.

Other states that require use of a CURES-type database – including New York, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia – have see dramatic reductions in the number of doctor-shoppers and opiate prescriptions. Opiate painkiller prescriptions declined between 7 and 10 percent in these states, and “doctor-shopping” by addicts fell by as much as 75 percent. CMA, the trade association for physicians, has long been opposed to any mandatory requirement.

The Los Angeles Times, the Contra Costa Times, and the Record Searchlight came out in support of the bill, saying it was time to end the "doctor shopping" for addicts.

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