California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law that targets “doctor shopping” as part of an effort to curb the opioid overdose epidemic.
The legislation requires all prescribers to check the CURES (Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System) database to ensure that patients are not receiving drugs from other physicians.
The aim of the bill, says Senator Ricardo Lara, is to prevent patients from shopping for doctors to obtain an excessive amount of pain pills.
In a statement, Lara said, “Overdoses claim tens of thousands of lives each year and more than half of those are attributed to abuse of opioid and prescription drugs.” Lara adds that the legislation will curb “untimely deaths” resulted from drug abuse.
“More than 4,000 Californians are dying every year from opioid addiction,” Lara said. “This law will help turn the tide.”
According to the CDC, deaths caused by opioid overdoses has increased by 200% since 2000. Opioid overdoses account for more than 1,000 visits to the emergency room and 78 deaths each day in the United States.
Under the new law, which will go into effect on January 1, physicians will be required to check the CURES database when prescribing Schedule IV, III and II drugs.
While the law is a step in the right direction, there is no guarantee that physicians will oblige. The issue is one that the bill’s advocates acknowledge. The only way the Medical Board would know if a doctor has not complied with the law is if the patient dies from an overdose. In this case, the California Medical Board would take administrative action.
Only a small percentage of doctors in the state use the database. The new law may change this, but there is no guarantee that more physicians will start using the CURES database.