Health

Bill fighting doctor shopping on Gov. Brown's desk

The National Safety Council says more Americans are dying by accident, and opioid abuse is one of the leading causes.
The National Safety Council says more Americans are dying by accident, and opioid abuse is one of the leading causes.
Toby Talbot/AP

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A bill that would require medical providers to consult a drug monitoring database before prescribing opioid painkillers and other powerful medications is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

SB 482, authored by State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), is intended to give doctors more information about patients' prescription drug history, making it harder for people to visit multiple doctors in search of the same medication.

The legislation would require doctors to check a patient's history on the state's Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES, no earlier than 24 hours before prescribing or dispensing Schedule II, III and IV drugs for the first time. These are drugs that have the potential to be addictive and/or abused, including Xanax, Tylenol with codeine and OxyContin.

Current law requires all providers to enroll in the system, but checking it before prescribing medication is still voluntary, and Lara says many doctors are not using it.

Brown has not indicated whether he will sign the bill; he has until the end of September to sign or veto it.

The California Medical Association originally opposed the bill, citing concerns about patient privacy and the timing of reporting requirements. After some amendments it adopted a neutral position, although it still has concerns about privacy protections.

Other states have successfully used prescription drug monitoring programs to lower the incidence of patients seeing multiple doctors for the same drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC says New York required doctors to check a database before prescribing opioids in 2012; a year later, the state reported a 75 percent drop in doctor shopping. Similarly, it says Tennessee saw a 36 percent decline after it required providers to check a database before prescribing painkillers.