Brown Signs Two Bills To Reduce Rx Misuse, Vetoes Another
On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law two bills (SB 670, SB 809) aimed at reducing prescription drug misuse but vetoed another bill (SB 62) that would have required county coroners to report any prescription drug-related deaths to the Medical Board of California, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The bills were proposed in response to a Times investigation that found that nearly half of prescription drug-related deaths examined by reporters were related to medications directly prescribed to the deceased, rather than stolen drugs or medications prescribed to others (Glover/Girion, Los Angeles Times, 9/27).
Approval of SB 670, SB 809
Brown said the two measures he signed, combined with "more vigorous efforts" by the state medical board, would "help detect and prevent" prescription drug misuse "without further burdening taxpayers."
SB 670, by Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), aims to ease state medical board efforts to investigate doctors suspected of overprescribing and to suspend their prescribing authority.
Meanwhile, SB 809 requires state health providers to pay a $6 annual fee to upgrade and maintain the state's Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES (Olson, AP/U-T San Diego, 9/27).
The measure is expected to provide a total of $9 million annually for the database, which allows doctors and pharmacists to quickly review patients' medication histories to detect possible prescription drug misuse. State Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) called SB 809 a "critical tool" for reducing prescription drug misuse (Los Angeles Times, 9/27).
Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) -- sponsor of SB 809 -- said that the bill "prevents California going from first to worst when it comes to monitoring prescription narcotics" and that funding for the bill "is a small price to pay when so many lives are at stake" (AP/U-T San Diego, 9/27).
Details of Veto
In a statement, Brown said that he rejected SB 62 over concerns that it would create an "unfunded mandate for the state, potentially in the millions of dollars" (Los Angeles Times, 9/27).
Coroners already are required to report prescription drug-related deaths that might have resulted from physician negligence, but a state legislative analysis found that the requirement is not strictly enforced (California Healthline, 9/10).
Consumer advocates said the veto would hinder the state's ability to identify prescription drug misuse.
Julianne Fellmeth -- administrative director at the Center for Public Interest Law -- said law enforcement "can't do anything without information, and they are clearly not getting it now" that Brown has vetoed SB 62.
She also noted that two official estimates had put the cost of the bill at about $100,000 annually.
Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) -- the bill's sponsor -- said, "There's a fiscal cost to having people addicted to painkillers ... [a]nd there's the moral cost of having people die unnecessarily as well. We need to take that into account."
Lieu said he now will ask coroners across the state to voluntarily report on prescription drug-related deaths (Los Angeles Times, 9/27).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.