The Sacramento Bee’s editorial got it right by saying that California’s prescription monitoring program is a useful tool, but ignored that it is riddled with problems that impede registration and its use (“Best tool to stop opioid abuse is also least used,” March 11).
The California Medical Association has long supported the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System and continues to do extensive outreach to educate physicians about it. In conjunction with the Department of Justice, which oversees the program, the association has hosted registration tables, offered a webinar and publishes regular updates in our newsletter.
We also supported legislation that requires registration and increased physician license fees to help pay for the system, which had its budget slashed several years ago. As a physician, I’m always looking for ways to increase patient safety and want to limit opioid abuse.
Unfortunately, the system isn’t up to the job. Over the last several months, we have been slammed with calls from physicians having trouble registering. One colleague said she received a notice that her form was filled out incorrectly, but was not given any indication of where the error occurred. She also wasn’t able to resubmit because only one submission per email is allowed.
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The editorial says that “the upgraded, online version, CURES 2.0, is obviously faster and more effective.” While we hope the streamlined registration process will be easier to navigate than the arduous paper applications of the older system, it’s still too early to see how much faster and effective it is. Long wait times, unreturned calls and unexplained denials are just a few of the issues that people are facing as they try to register before the July 1 deadline.
We agree that there is work to be done to curb opioid abuse and believe that CURES can be part of the solution. But for doctors, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians and other health care providers required to register, it’s time that the DOJ fixes the issues that are standing in the way.
Ruth Haskins, a Sacramento-area physician, is president-elect of the California Medical Association. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.