California Reinforces Efforts to Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse

With the recent implementation of CURES 2.0, a database for medical and state officials to monitor prescription drug use, California hopes to prevent future prescription drug abuse and ultimately save lives. The U.S. is currently in the midst of an opioid abuse epidemic, which claims more than 16,000 American lives every year.

The California state government implemented a new and improved operating system for monitoring prescription drug use last month in response to the growing prescription drug abuse epidemic in the U.S.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the California Department of Consumer Affairs announced the debut of CURES 2.0 in December. It’s an improved version of the state’s pre-existing prescription drug monitoring system, the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, which has experienced significant problems.

“This innovative prescription drug database ensures that California continues to lead the fight against our country’s prescription drug abuse epidemic,” Harris said in a statement.

Before the implementation of CURES 2.0, California residents’ prescription drug history was maintained by the original CURES database.

The system holds more than 86 million records and includes information about:

  • What drugs are prescribed
  • Quantities and dosages of prescriptions
  • Patient personal information
  • Prescribing physicians’ information and authorization numbers
  • Prescription numbers.

The database was made to help medical prescribers examine a patient’s prescription medication history before prescribing new drugs. In 2015, there were more than 5.5 million database information requests.

Although the original program was intended to make monitoring prescription drug use easier for medical officials and state officials, long processes and technical issues marred the CURES system — such as taking more than six months in many instances to register and receive credentials to use the database. Underfunding because of the economic recession exacerbated the issues, and many California physicians declined to use the database at all as a result.

Cures 2.0 More ‘User Friendly’

CURES 2.0 addresses technical issues, such as user compatibility, and makes access to the collected information easier for medical officials. Deputy Attorney General and California Department of Justice (DOJ) IT Projects Supervisor Robert Sumner said the new changes will also improve the database user experience.

“The new system is more user friendly,” Sumner told KQED News. “It’s faster, it’s more responsive, it’s more intuitive.”

California law requires all doctors and pharmacies to report any Schedule II, III or IV drug prescriptions to the state DOJ within seven days of writing the prescription.

Additionally, all California medical professionals licensed to prescribe medications that are considered controlled substances are required to sign up to be a member of the CURES 2.0 database by July 1, 2016.

With more than 7,500 pharmacies and 155,000 medical prescribers in California, collecting the vast amount of information proved ineffective through the original CURES program.

CURES 2.0 will allow medical officials and pharmacies to more closely monitor the potential for drug abuse among individuals. The upgraded system contains state-of-the-art analytic software that aims to alert authorities to patients at risk of prescription drug abuse. State officials hope this will help drug prescribers make sensible assessments of what medications should and should not be prescribed to certain patients.

Bob Pack is an advocate for prescription drug abuse prevention who has worked extensively to get the state to rebuild the CURES system. He lost his 10-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter in 2003 after a driver who was under the influence of legally prescribed drugs swerved off the road and hit the children. Pack hopes the CURES 2.0 system will prevent other California residents from facing the same kind of tragedy.

“CURES 2.0 is without a doubt the most effective tool for doctors and pharmacists to help curb prescription drug abuse,” Pack told the Los Angeles Times. “Many lives will be saved in California.”

Opioid abuse has become a critical issue in the U.S., as more than 44 Americans die from prescription painkillers every day.

The U.S., which contains less than five percent of the world’s population, consumes almost 80 percent of the world’s opioid supply. Approximately 52 million Americans use prescription drugs recreationally at some point during their lives.

Prescription painkillers (opioids) account for the majority of the country’s prescription drug abuse and are responsible for 16,000 American deaths every year.

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