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Bill to curb prescription overdose deaths gains in Assembly

August 13, 2013|By Scott Glover

A bill aimed at beefing up California’s prescription drug monitoring system so that it can be better used to track drug abusing patients and recklessly prescribing physicians emerged from an Assembly committee Monday on a unanimous vote.

The bill by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord),  which was backed by Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, was approved 14 to 0 by members of the Assembly Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection. The bill is next scheduled for consideration by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The proposed law is one of several bills aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths in California.  The legislation was spurred in part by an investigative report in The Times last year that linked drugs prescribed by doctors to nearly half the prescription-involved overdose deaths in Southern California from 2006 through 2011. Seventy-one doctors prescribed drugs to three or more patients who later fatally overdosed.

The bill approved Monday would create a steady stream of funding for the so-called CURES program by raising licensing fees on doctors, pharmacists and other prescribers.

CURES and other programs like it can be used by doctors to monitor patients who may be getting drugs from multiple physicians. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that such programs also be used by authorities to look for troubling prescribing patterns among doctors.

Sam Mahood, a spokesman for DeSaulnier, said the bill has enjoyed strong bipartisan support — evidenced by the most recent committee vote.

As it heads for a key vote in the Appropriations Committee, Mahood said, “we’re confident that the urgency of the prescription drug epidemic speaks for itself.”

Monday's vote follow a request by DeSaulnier and Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) that drugmaker Purdue Pharma turn over names to the state's medical board of California doctors whom the company suspected of reckless prescribing. That request was made in response to a Times investigation published Sunday that outlined Purdue's internal effort to identify potentially problematic doctors. 

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Twitter: @scottgloverLAT

scott.glover@latimes.com

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