Asm. Low Introduces Legislation to Fight Opioid Crisis

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) introduced a three-bill package of legislation today to fight the opioid crisis by addressing the overprescribing, diversion, and abuse of prescription drugs like opioids. AB 1751 creates a framework for connecting California’s prescription drug monitoring program (CURES) with other state databases; AB 1752 adds new drugs to the drug monitoring database and requires more real-time reporting of new prescriptions; and AB 1753 helps law enforcement combat fraudulently obtained prescription pads.

“The opioid crisis has destroyed lives and devastated families. It is the deadliest drug crisis in U.S. history it’s getting worse. In 2016 alone, our state lost 1,925 lives to the opioid epidemic,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley). “While there is no silver bullet solution to the opioid crisis, there are concrete steps California can and must take to reduce the overprescribing and abuse of opioids that has claimed so many lives.”

Each day, the opioid epidemic claims 91 American lives. On top of that, it is estimated that over two million Americans struggle with opioid addiction. While California as a whole has not been the hardest hit, many rural counties in the state have some of the highest overdose rates in the country. For state and county overdose statistics, visit the California Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard.

The package addresses multiple stages of the epidemic, investing in proven initiatives to combat the overprescribing, diversion, and abuse of prescription drugs like opioids in the state:

  • AB 1751: Interstate Data Sharing

California’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), the CURES database, contains over 250 million prescription records. Licensed health professionals rely on this data to safely prescribe new controlled substances to their patients. However, the database only includes information on prescriptions dispensed within the state. This means that a California health professional who looks up a patient in CURES will not see whether that patient has recently been prescribed controlled substances in other states. For true “doctor-shopping” patients, crossing state lines from and into jurisdictions like Nevada and Oregon is not unusual.

AB 1751 provides a statutory framework for CURES to link up with databases in other states while ensuring that patient privacy is adequately protected. As co-chair of the California Legislative Technology and Innovation Caucus, Assemblymember Low’s legislation is aimed at supporting and enhancing tech-forward solutions to the opioid crisis.

  • AB 1752: Add Schedule V Drugs to CURES & Require Next-Day Reporting

Currently, CURES only contains prescription information for controlled substances that are federally scheduled II through IV. While drugs in these schedules are intended to represent those that are most dangerous or pose a potential for abuse, the recent rise in street drug use of the opioid codeine, which is often Schedule V in cough syrups, has led to a spike in theft and diversion of Schedule V drugs. Additionally, pharmacies currently have up to 7 days to report to CURES, meaning that a patient’s record may not reflect a recent prescription for controlled substances for up to a week.

AB 1752 adds Schedule V drugs to the CURES database. The bill also changes the requirement for pharmacists to report dispensed prescriptions from seven days to the following business day, allowing for more “real-time” data updating in CURES.

The reforms enacted in AB 1752 are recommended and sponsored by the State Board of Pharmacy. “The amendments proposed by the board and included in Assemblymember Low’s bill are the next step in improving access to CURES tools, and will lead to increased accuracy of clinical information to aid California prescribers and pharmacists making patient therapy decisions,” said Dr. Amy Gutierrez, President of the State Board of Pharmacy.

  • AB 1753: Prescription Pad Control

The California Department of Justice’s Security Printers Program currently regulates the third party printing of prescription pads, which must feature special tamper-resistant security forms. However, fraudulent prescriptions continue to represent a serious public safety problem, as pads are easily obtained illicitly through a large number of approved vendors. The pads are also very difficult for law enforcement to track.

AB 1753 empowers the Department of Justice’s role in regulating vendors entrusted with manufacturing prescription pads by adding new controls, limiting the number of approved printers, and linking uniquely serialized pads with CURES.