California doctors now required to check database before prescribing painkillers

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Starting Tuesday, doctors in California are required to check a new mandatory database for narcotics and controlled substances before prescribing opioids to patients.

The idea for the new system started 15 years ago, when two children were killed by an impaired driver on a sidewalk in Danville. That driver killed 7-year-old Alana and 10-year-old Troy back in October 2003. Since then, opioid use has skyrocketed as the children's father, Bob Pack, has fought for the database through a ballot measure and eventually the legislature.

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Pack said, "When I learned the driver was getting multiple prescriptions, I really thought there needs to be a technology solution. It hit me right away."

He says the woman who killed them was a doctor-shopping drug addict, simultaneously getting narcotics from six different doctors at the same Walnut Creek hospital.

He said, "The problem was all these doctors never spoke to each other, never shared a medical file so they didn't know what each other was doing."

But no more. It's now mandatory for doctors to log into a state database called CURES -- the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System -- before prescribing any controlled substance.

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So if you go to a doctor seeking an opioid, a muscle relaxant or even a sleeping pill, the doctor will have to look up your prescription record on the computer to decide if it's valid to prescribe the medication.

And oral surgeon in Lafayette demonstrated how the system can red flag a patient, especially those who "doctor shop." The database is designed to red flag deadly drug combinations as well. Up until now, it's been voluntary.

The California Medical Board is charged with policing it.

A single Vicodin tablet sells for $80 on the street. With addiction to painkillers trending upward, it's hoped this new CURES database will put a dent in the opioid crisis.

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