Pubdate: Wed, 19 Nov 2014
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2014 San Jose Mercury News


Eleven years after the deaths of two Danville children focused Bay 
Area attention on prescription drug abuse, state lawmakers finally 
should take tough action to curb addicts from doctor-shopping for 
medications and stop physicians from recklessly prescribing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called 
prescription drug abuse an epidemic. Per-capita use of prescription 
opiates in the United States increased fivefold from 1997 to 2007. 
Medicare-covered opiate prescriptions increased 24 percent from 2007 to 2010.

And then there's the case of Troy Pack, 10, and his sister, Alana, 7, 
who were killed in 2003 when a Mercedes driven by a woman who had 
been drinking and taking pain medications veered off the road and hit 
the siblings on the sidewalk.

The driver, Jimena Barreto, had consumed about 120 Vicodin pills in 
about 20 days. She had obtained the prescriptions from six different 
Kaiser Permanente doctors.

The children's parents, Bob and Carmen Pack, and state Sen. Mark 
DeSaulnier, D-Concord, successfully pushed legislation to improve a 
statewide database doctors can check before writing prescriptions for 
addictive drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Adderall. A muchneeded 
upgrade should be completed in 2015.

But there's still no requirement that doctors actually check the 
database to determine whether patients already received drugs elsewhere.

Doctors successfully fought DeSaulnier's attempt to mandate it. 
Meanwhile, mandates in New York and Kentucky immediately showed 
reductions in doctor-shopping and prescriptions of addictive medications.

There's little money in state government to investigate doctors who 
are overprescribing. The drug companies balked at attempts to tax 
their products by one-fourth of a cent per pill to fund investigators.

Proposition 46, which voters rejected this month by a 2-1 margin, 
would have required doctors check the database. But that provision 
was lost in the $66 million war between physicians and trial lawyers 
over two other parts of the initiative.

The campaigns focused on mandatory random drug testing for 
physicians, a bad and legally questionable policy, and increasing the 
cap on medical malpractice awards for the first time since 1975, 
which was overdue. While Prop. 46 advocates used Bob Pack in their 
campaign, they never emphasized the initiative's provision that might 
have prevented his family's tragedy.

Standing on its own, a measure mandating use of the drug registry and 
cracking down on abusive doctors almost certainly would have won 
voter support. Such changes not only would save lives, they would 
save taxpayer dollars that are being spent to fuel drug habits.

This shouldn't require a ballot initiative. State lawmakers can fix 
this - if they have the political courage to stand up to doctors and 
the pharmaceutical industry.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom