What Do Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie Agree On That Sacramento Still Won't Do?

The prescription drug abuse epidemic has vaulted into the national presidential debate, most recently this week with a Hillary Clinton op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Clinton wrote about combating addiction, and called for a requirement that health care providers consult a prescription drug monitoring database before prescribing controlled substances.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation this summer to make New Jersey the tenth state to enact such a requirement, and fellow GOP Presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina have also broached the addiction crisis on the campaign trail.

Despite the bipartisan agreement that doctors must use state prescription databases to rein in the43,000 annual drug overdose deaths, California has fallen behind the curve. SB 482, authored by Senator Ricardo Lara, will change that by mandating doctors check California's prescription database (called CURES) before prescribing drugs like OxyContin and other opioids for the first time to a patient. The bill passed the Senate but is still waiting for its first vote in the Assembly.

As the Los Angeles Times editorialized:

"When California lawmakers created the CURES database to fight prescription drug abuse, they left out an important piece. Although pharmacists were required to list in the database any customers who received potentially dangerous and addictive drugs, doctors weren't required to check those records before prescribing more pills. State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) has a bill that would finally require doctors to do what they should have been doing all along. His colleagues should pass it."

In July, the American Medical Association announced its support for efforts to have physicians register and use state-based PDMPs as part of the decision-making process when considering treatment options, but California's medical establishment is still not on board.

"Alone, they will not end this crisis, but they can provide helpful clinical information, and because they are available in nearly every state, PDMPs can be effective in turning the tide to end opioid abuse in the right direction," said Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, Board Chair-Elect of the AMA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advocates the use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPS) continue to be among the most promising interventions to improve painkiller prescribing, inform clinical practice, and protect patients.

National patient safety organizations, medical provider associations, politicians from both parties and state and federal regulators are piling on because the evidence is overwhelming that prescription drug databases successfully reduce doctor shopping and opioid abuse. It's time for California to get on the train.

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