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Law to Fight Doctor-Shopping in CA Takes Effect Today

A new law requires California doctors to have access to the state's database that tracks prescriptions for opioid painkillers.(dodgerton skillhause/morguefile)
A new law requires California doctors to have access to the state's database that tracks prescriptions for opioid painkillers.(dodgerton skillhause/morguefile)
July 1, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Starting today, all doctors in California must be registered for access to the state's prescription database. It's part of an effort to stop drug-addicted patients from "doctor shopping" to get pain pills.

The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, also known as CURES, lets doctors track any prescriptions for controlled substances a patient has filled in California within the past year.

At Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Anna Lembke, chief of addiction medicine, said there were more opioid-related deaths in the U.S. in 2014 than ever before – so it's important for doctors to check for multiple prescriptions.

"We need to know that's happening, so that we can identify if those patients are at risk to accidentally overdose, or if those patients may be developing an addiction," she explained. "And then, we can try to get them the proper help."

The database will tell the doctor whether a patient has prescriptions for painkillers (such as Vicodin or Oxycontin) alongside benzodiazepenes (such as Valium or Xanax), a combination that can be fatal when mixed.

However, the database is useless if doctors don't consult it.

Another proposal still in committee, Senate Bill 482, would force doctors to check the database before issuing a prescription for a controlled substance.

Lembke said doctors have slowed the pace of pain-pill prescriptions in recent years, but noted the numbers still are very high.

"In 2014, there were more than 240 million prescriptions written for opioid painkillers," she said. "So, we're still using these medications quite often, and we need to really move toward a non-opioid alternative for pain."

Doctors' groups have objected to SB 482, saying it would take away from patient care if physicians have to spend the five minutes it takes each time to research a prescription.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA