California Legislature Passes Two Bills Aimed at Curbing Prescription Drug Abuse

The California Senate passed two bills designed to fight prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, the Los Angeles Times reports. The bills, which were passed unanimously, now await Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

The measures will help officials track prescriptions for painkillers and other addictive narcotics, the article notes. They will also allow for increased scrutiny of deaths that involve prescription drug abuse.

One of the bills requires coroners to report prescription overdose deaths to the Medical Board of California for review, while the other provides increased funding for the state’s prescription drug monitoring system. The state database includes information on prescriptions for commonly abused drugs, including the names of patients and the doctors who prescribe the drugs.

A third bill, which would have allowed the state medical board to act more quickly to suspend prescribing privileges of doctors who are suspected of endangering patients, was opposed by the California Medical Association. It failed a vote in the Assembly.

The newspaper notes the measure is expected to be reconsidered soon.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times conducted an investigation that concluded a small number of doctors are linked to a large percentage of prescription drug-related deaths in Southern California. The newspaper found that in almost half of the 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs in four Southern California counties, those who died had a doctor’s prescription for at least one drug that caused or contributed to the death. In many cases, deaths were caused by use of multiple drugs, sometimes prescribed by more than one doctor. In some cases, prescription drugs were mixed with alcohol or illicit drugs.

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