The California Senate recently passed a series of bills with the aim of curbing prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths in the state. The new laws attempt to hold physicians and other medical professional responsible for their role the increasing problem of prescription drug abuse in the state. Reforms include:
- Allowing the California Medical Board to review the medical records of dead patients to determine if the death was caused by a medical practitioner violating the law. His or prescribing privileges could also be suspended during an investigation
- Immediately suspending the licenses of medical practitioners who over prescribe painkillers
- Imposing a fee on all medical providers with drug prescribing privileges. This fee would help to fund the state's prescription monitoring database known as CURES.
None of the bills, however, increase funding for the state's Department of Justice to pursue and prosecute offending physicians.
"Today's vote proves that stopping the prescription drug epidemic is a top priority for California," said Sen. Mark DeSaulnier in a statement. Sen. DeSaulnier introduced the bill to improve the CURES monitoring system.
The reforms were proposed after a Los Angeles Times investigation highlighted the severity of prescription drug abuse in California. There were over 3,700 prescription drug related deaths in Southern California from 2006 to 2011. Over half involved narcotics or pain killers that had been prescribed by a doctor. State medical officials were unaware of most of these deaths, which inspired the required reporting provision of the new laws.