Drug Class Reinforces Need for Prescription Drug Database

by: Mike Miller

Trying to control the rampant abuse of prescription drugs is a prescient problem. So far no strong remedy has been discovered. Do you have any thoughts on how to curb this problem?

How would you feel about a national prescription drug database?

The state of California had established just such a database to help control its raging problem. For some reason California officials are preparing to shut down the database used to track abusive pill seekers and doctor shoppers.

Ending this database would be dangerously shortsighted and costly, reversing years of proactive prevention work aimed at thwarting prescription drug abuse in this state. Doctors would no longer be able to check an important and lifesaving database to see if a patient is doctor shopping or using multiple narcotics at the same time. Law enforcement efforts would be severely hampered.

Oldest Monitoring System About to Close

California’s prescription drug monitoring program, founded in 1939, is the oldest in the nation. Its database, known as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), contains more than 100 million entries of controlled-substance drugs.

In addition to its widespread use by law enforcement, CURES responds to more than 60,000 requests from medical practitioners and pharmacists each year. The database provides information critical in the fight against prescription drug diversion and abuse.

Thirty-six states have followed California’s lead, implementing prescription drug monitoring systems. Of those, California is the only state in jeopardy of not having an active database.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drugs, including opioids and antidepressants, are now responsible for more overdose deaths than all illegal street drugs.

Frightening Statistics

In San Diego County alone, prescription drugs were the leading cause of accidental deaths in 2010, according to the county medical examiner. That’s more than the total number of deaths attributable to motor vehicle crashes.

While the most tragic cost is human life, there are many other costs tied to prescription drug abuse – many of which are paid by taxpayers. It doesn’t take much imagination to see law enforcement, judicial and societal problems associated with criminals who have turned to prescription drugs to satisfy their need to get high.

According to a 2010 San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) report, two in five arrestees, or 40 percent, say they have used prescription drugs illegally. OxyContin tops the list of most recently abused. The report also found that arrestees who previously abused prescription drugs were significantly more likely to use other illicit drugs.

Those numbers are sure to creep higher if the state pulls the plug on the program. They may even catapult. We cannot allow this to happen.

Questions That Need To Be Addressed

Do you really want California to become a state that attracts drug abusers and dealers because their home states see the value of funding prescription drug monitoring programs? Do we really want “Pill Mills” to become synonymous with California? Is this really worth the risk? I don’t think so!

The DEA’s prescription drug unit in San Diego uses CURES on every case it investigates. It’s an invaluable tool. If gone, it will slow law enforcement investigations. With that comes a hefty price tag – from higher crime rates to more deaths to more babies being born hooked on the drugs their mothers are using.

State officials estimate that it costs less than $1 million to run the CURES database annually.

It seems well worth it to me.