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California Prescription Database Could Help Prevent Opioid Abuse, But System Still Lags

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In some California counties (and some in Oregon, as well), there are more opioid prescriptions than residents. The state is trying to change prescribing practices, but the technology needed to do that isn’t quite ready yet.

The California opioid database, called CURES, has been around for decades, but it recently got a reboot to make it faster and easier to use. A 2016 law mandates that doctors check the database before prescribing opioids, to make sure patients aren’t doubling up.

But the Department of Justice, which manages CURES, said at a recent hearing that the system won’t be ready until this summer. The mandate won’t take effect until six months after that.

Carmen Balber with California-based advocacy group Consumer Watchdog said this should have happened a while ago.

“We’re disappointed that it hasn’t taken effect yet, and frankly, we’re really worried that every day we delay, another patient is put at risk in California,” she said.

Public health officials said making doctors check CURES could cut down on prescription opioid abuse and illegal resale. In Kentucky, prescriptions to patients who shop around for painkillers dropped by 54 percent in the year after their state database mandate took effect.

Virginia Herold with the California Board of Pharmacy said pharmacists are already using CURES regularly, even though it isn't mandated.

“If [pharmacists] look at a CURES report and they see that in the last two weeks a number of drugs have been dispensed to this patient … this patient is every month coming in and getting early refills, is on multiple controlled drugs ... we expect the pharmacist to decline to fill the prescription. “

There are a handful of bills addressing CURES this year, including one that would connect CURES with other states’ databases.

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