California’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Lacks Participation, Funding

California’s prescription drug monitoring program is not effective in curbing prescription drug abuse, because enrollment in the program is optional, and funding for the program is drying up, according to The New York Times.

Of the more than 165,000 physicians and pharmacists statewide, only 1,216 pharmacists and 6,755 doctors are signed up to use the prescription drug monitoring system, the article notes. There is little money or staffing for California’s program, after Governor Brown cut $71 million from the state’s Department of Justice budget.

Users of the system complain it is slow and difficult to use, and cannot analyze data systematically. “It’s hit or miss,” said Dr. Richard Gracer, who runs a pain management clinic. “Once in a while it’s slow. Sometimes it gives the wrong answers. If the amount of doctors who should be using it signed up, it would probably die right away.”

Mike Small, who runs the state program, said, “Doctors don’t want to spend 10 minutes waiting when they have a patient in front of them.”

Some states use their prescription monitoring programs to send reports to doctors and pharmacists about patients who appear to be “doctor shopping,” or going from doctor to doctor seeking prescriptions. In eight states, such reports are sent to law enforcement agencies, and seven states forward these reports to licensing agencies, the article notes. In California, this type of information stays in the system until someone files a complaint or provides a tip that leads state investigators to find it.

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