California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

New Legislation Would Upgrade CURES Rx Monitoring System

Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) have introduced legislation (SB 809) that would upgrade a database that monitors physicians who overprescribe certain medications, the Los Angeles Times reports (Girion/Glover, Los Angeles Times, 3/3).

About the Database

The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System -- or CURES -- tracks patients' prescription drug history in an effort to curb illegal sales and misuse of prescription medication (California Healthline, 1/3).

Funding for the system has decreased in recent years because of state budget cuts. The current budget is $400,000 annually.

Currently, CURES is operated by one full-time employee in the state attorney general's office (Los Angeles Times, 3/3).

A Times investigation conducted last year found the state's oversight of physicians who overprescribe mediations to be lacking (California Healthline, 2/7).

Details of Legislation

The bill would upgrade CURES and establish two criminal enforcement teams to investigate suspicious prescribing patterns. Such changes would cost an estimated $9.6 million.

To pay for the changes, the legislation would:

  • Implement one-time assessment fees for health plans and workers' compensation insurers;
  • Increase license fees on physicians, pharmacists, dentists and other drug prescribers; and
  • Tax drug manufacturers.

Comments by A.G.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) said CURES currently is "on life support." She said the legislation would allow the database to automatically alert authorities to prescribing habits that appear "questionable or excessive."

She added, "Any legislator who questions the relevance or necessity of this should check with their local police chief. They'll tell them what's going on on the street."

Reaction to Bill

The California Medical Association says that it supports upgrading CURES but opposes raising license fees for physicians.

A spokesperson for the California Pharmacists Association said that the group supports license fee increases to fund the changes. However, the spokesperson said CPA is unsure about whether it supports a provision that would require pharmacists to check the database before filling prescriptions even if physicians already have done so (Los Angeles Times, 3/3). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.