Doctors Will Be Required To Check Prescription Database In California

By Kelly Burch 09/18/18

The state's monitoring system has been historically underused by healthcare providers. 

doctor checking laptop

Beginning on October 2, doctors in California will be required to check the state’s prescription monitoring database before writing a new prescription, in an attempt to provide better care and correct years of underutilization of the system.

“California created the first system to track prescriptions of the strongest painkillers, but our state fell behind as the opioid crisis grew,” state Sen. Ricardo Lara, who drafted the legislation in 2015, told the Los Angeles Times. “I wrote SB 482 to require that doctors and others consult the CURES system before prescribing these powerful and addictive drugs. This tool will help limit doctor shopping, break the cycle of addiction and prevent prescriptions from ever again fueling an epidemic that claims thousands of lives.”

California’s monitoring system, called The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES, provides a list of patients' prescriptions, the doctors who prescribed the medication and the pharmacies that filled them. The system was overhauled in 2016 to make it easier for doctors to use, and the new legislation will now require them to do so.

Under the law, healthcare providers will need to check CURES every time they write a new prescription, or every four months for patients who have an ongoing prescription. There are exceptions, including for emergency room care and hospice patients.

The legislation is meant to cut back on so-called doctor shopping, as well as ensure that doctors and patients are aware of any risky combinations of medicines that a patient is taking.

“I think people make the mistake of thinking it’s just for doctor shopping,” said Dr. Roneet Lev, chief of emergency medicine at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego. “Using CURES just makes you a smarter, better doctor.”

Although some doctors balk at the amount of time that it will take to consult CURES, other believe that using the system will soon become second nature.

“I think it’s going to be one of those things that a year from now is going to be second [nature] to them,” said Kimberly Kirchmeyer, executive director of the Medical Board of California. “It’s just the first round of it gets hard for them. Any additional administrative task for physicians in the world they live in is difficult for them, and we completely understand that.”

However, if the requirement helps to protect patients, doctors say that they are willing to spend time using the CURES system.

“I think every doctor in California will gladly do it as long as there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” said Dr. Jason Toranto, chief of plastic surgery at Senta Clinic in San Diego. “As long as the patient is going to do better, that’s what it’s all about.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.