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Letters: A tool to stop Rx deaths

January 10, 2013

Re "Addressing an epidemic of Rx deaths," Editorial, Jan. 7

The Times' news articles and editorial on California's prescription drug monitoring program (CURES) demonstrates the importance of this public health tool. As an emergency physician, I frequently use CURES when evaluating patients. It saves lives, decreases addiction, eliminates unnecessary prescription costs and decreases society's costs resulting from overdoses.

Unfortunately, the funding for CURES expired Dec. 31. A reliable funding mechanism is needed immediately. I know physicians who are unable to gain access to CURES because of funding cuts. Furthermore, software improvements are required to improve the system, which is slow and difficult to navigate.

The Times has showed the tragic outcomes from bad or misused prescriptions. The vast majority of physicians and patients are acting as they should. California needs to maintain and improve CURES as a resource for saving lives and decreasing abuse.

Thomas J. Sugarman, MD

Berkeley

The writer is president-elect of the American College of Emergency Physicians' California chapter.

Your editorial on the scope and prevention of narcotic overdose deaths suggests that the roughly 200,000 practitioners who should be using the CURES system pay an annual fee of less than $10 to sustain and upgrade the program.

How about having the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute narcotic-containing medications take the responsibility for payment? The $2.8 million it would cost to retool the system plus the $1.6 annually it would take to sustain the program is nothing compared to what these companies spend on advertising and gifts for doctors.

Zeb Dyer

Goleta, Calif.

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