Bill to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse Passes State Senate Unanimously

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Mark DeSaulnier

SB 809, which aims to save a crucial prescription drug abuse prevention program authored by Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and sponsored by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, was passed by the State Senate unanimously on a 39-0 vote today.

This legislation will provide the funding needed to not only save, but strengthen and modernize, the Department of Justice’s Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) program and the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) that exists within CURES. CURES allows authorized prescribers and pharmacists to quickly review controlled substance information and patient prescription history in an effort to identify and deter drug abuse and diversion.

“Today’s vote proves that stopping the prescription drug epidemic is a top priority for California,” Senator DeSaulnier said. “California was one of the first states in the nation to implement a prescription drug monitoring program. Without funding from SB 809, California would go from first to worst when it comes to monitoring prescription narcotics. This bill prevents the Department of Justice from losing one of its most powerful tools in fighting prescription drug abuse. The technology exists for us to make a real difference in the prescription drug abuse epidemic. In California an average of six people die from prescription drug overdoses every day. The funding for the CURES program is a small price to pay when so many lives are at stake.”

This bill will not only save lives, it will save millions of dollars as well. It is estimated that SB 809 will save around $52 million in workers compensation costs alone.

SB 809 is Senator DeSaulnier’s third bill attempting to save the CURES program. This bill has advanced further than any of his previous attempts.

Prescription narcotic sales quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. With an increased prescribing of narcotics there has been a parallel increase in deaths, now four times what it was in 1999. Prescription drug overdoses now cause more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.

In 2011, sales of painkillers in the United States reached $8.5 billion. Sales of the nation’s two most popular prescription painkillers, oxycodone and hydrocodone, have skyrocketed over the last decade. In California, between 2000 and 2010, the per capita sales of oxycodone increased 372% and the per capita sales of hydrocodone increased 123%.

Currently funding sources are insufficient to operate and maintain CURES/PDMP and without identifying funds the program will be eliminated July 1, 2013.

Less than 7 percent of those licensed to prescribe or dispense narcotics are registered users of the web-based CURES/PDMP system. To ensure the program is effective, it is important all prescribers and dispensers enroll and consult the CURES PDMP.

SB 809 mandates that once the CURES/PDMP is capable of accommodating all prescribers and pharmacists, they must enroll in the program. Resources are needed to upgrade the web-based CURES/PDMP system before all users can be accommodated.

SB 809 provides a stable funding to modernize and maintain CURES/PDMP. SB 809 takes a shared funding approach by imposing a small 1.16% licensing increase on practitioners and pharmacists, and authorizing the Department of Justice to seek grant funding from health insurance plans, workers compensation insurers, and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

SB 809 has a broad coalition of support, including medical professionals, business groups, and law enforcement. The California Pharmacists Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, and California Retailers Association all support SB 809.

Website of Senator Mark DeSaulnier: http://www.sd07.senate.ca.gov/

1 COMMENT

  1. If you work in the world of Pharmacy, you know how crucial this program is. Thumbs way up for getting this passed. Our society as a whole will benefit from it. Drug overdoses will drop, people driving under the influence of prescription narcotics will be reduced which will benefit every person on the road, quacky candy man doctors will be punished and hopefully put out of business, the list goes on and on. There is nothing but positive that will come from this important program remaining available to the health care professionals. So relieved it will continue!!

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