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California unveils improved prescription-tracking system

The upgrades -- including instant tracking of controlled substances and access to law enforcement officials -- come after concerns in the celebrity deaths of Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson.

September 16, 2009|Andrew Blankstein

State officials Tuesday unveiled improvements to their prescription medication tracking system, including the capability to instantly flag whether patients are abusing those drugs -- an issue highlighted with the deaths of celebrities Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson.

The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, known as CURES, includes more than 100 million entries for controlled substances prescribed in California. But doctors and pharmacists had to wait days to find out whether a patient was seeking a prescription legitimately.

The upgraded system allows healthcare professionals to instantly track online a broad range of controlled substances, including anti-anxiety medications, painkillers and sedatives. It also gives law enforcement officials access to the database to combat prescription drug abuse.

The CURES system, which has been in use for a decade, contains the name of every doctor who prescribes controlled medicines, the person for whom the drug is prescribed, the quantity and the date.

California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown argued last year for the need to upgrade the system after Anna Nicole Smith died in 2007 from an overdose.

This year, prosecutors charged Smith's boyfriend and two of her doctors with repeatedly supplying the former Playboy centerfold with addictive prescription drugs since 2004.

More recently, state officials provided help to the Los Angeles Police Department in its investigation of the death of pop star Michael Jackson, who died June 25 in what the Los Angeles County coroner's office has ruled a homicide caused by acute intoxication from the anesthetic propofol.

In search warrants, police have cited Jackson's use of pseudonyms to procure prescriptions. Brown told The Times last month that authorities wanted to be able to monitor prescriptions to make sure that the drugs were linked to a diagnosis of a medical problem and were not being abused.

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andrew.blankstein@ latimes.com

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