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Online Database To Help Fight Prescription Drug Abuse In California

The new system will provide histories more quickly and prevent patients from "doctor shopping" and gathering large quantities of drugs.

California Attorney Jerry Brown has turned to online technology to stop prescription drug abuse.

Brown announced Wednesday that the state will create an online database to help authorized doctors and pharmacies stop drug dealers and addicts from collecting narcotics from multiple doctors.

"Every year thousands of doctors try to check their patient's prescription history information but California's current database is difficult to access," Brown said during a news conference. "If California puts this information online, with real-time access, it will give authorized doctors and pharmacies the technology they need to fight prescription drug abuse which is burdening our healthcare system."

The Troy and Alana Pack Foundation -- founded by the father of two children killed by a driver who had taken prescription drugs from several doctors -- will work with Kaiser Permanente, The California State Board of Pharmacy, and the California Attorney General's Office to develop the new database.

The California Department of Justice maintains a state database of dispensed prescription drugs that are often misused. Brown said he receives over 60,000 requests a year from doctors and pharmacies seeking information on patient prescription history. The state handles the requests by fax and telephone, making it difficult for doctors and pharmacists to obtain important information before dispensing controlled drugs.

The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) (PDF) contains 86 million dispensed prescriptions for powerful drugs like Morphine, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Codeine, amphetamine, and methadone. That new system will provide histories more quickly and prevent patients from "doctor shopping" and gathering large quantities of drugs.

"If doctors can easily check their own patients' prescription history, it will reduce the number of people who are able to obtain large quantities of narcotics from many different physicians," Brown said.

The new online database is schedule for launch in 2009 and cost $3.5 million over the next three years.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network reported 598,000 emergency room visits stemming from the non-medical use of prescription or other pharmaceutical drugs in 2005, with 55% of the cases involving multiple drugs.

Kentucky was the first state to put all of its prescription history information online for authorized doctors, pharmacists, and law enforcement, Brown said. California's online database is expected to be the largest in the United States.

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