Senator Mark DeSaulnier Aims to Curb Prescription Drug Abuse
California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier is coming to visit the Malibu Beach Recovery Center at the end of July. We are honored and excited.
Senator DeSaulnier is a man after my own heart. Every year he holds a “There Ought to be a Law” contest,” inviting members of his Northern California district to submit ideas for new state legislation. We got to know him this year because one of the 2009 winners was Danville resident Bob Pack, whose two children, Troy and Alana Pack, ages 10 and 7, were killed in 2003 when a woman high on prescription medication passed out while driving her car. The car crossed three lanes of traffic, killing Bob’s children and seriously injuring his wife. The driver had gotten 350 vicodin pills in the week before the accident from six different doctors, all of whom practiced at the same hospital. Each of them had no idea that she was getting medication from the others.
Working with the Department of Justice, Pack, an East Bay computer company owner, and advocate for curbing prescription drug abuse, turned the State’s antiquated Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) into a real time online data base. Now doctors can have instant access to prescription drug histories of their patients- which helps prevent doctor shopping for highly addictive controlled substances such as oxycodone, xanax, vicodin, valium. Until now it took healthcare professionals weeks to obtain information on drug use by patients. That delay allowed patients like the driver who killed Pack’s children to get large quantities of drugs from multiple doctors for personal use or sale.
With the State of California broke, Pack proposed the legislation that became SB 1071 (SB stands for Senate Bill). It was designed to make the CURES online database financially sustainable by taxing the pharmaceutical companies $0.0025 for each highly addictive narcotic prescribed in California. That’s less than 25 cents a prescription.
On May 5th I took some of our alumni to Sacramento, including prescription drug addicts now in recovery, to lobby for SB 1071.
To our surprise the bill did not get out of the Senate Health Committee. It lost by one vote. The Democrat who Senator DeSaulnier counted on to vote with him, voted against the bill because; according to his office staff, she was opposed to levying new taxes in the current economic climate. Given the amount of revenue the pharmaceutical industry reports each year (over $300 billion in 2007) this was surprising. Maybe not though, considering the number of lobbyists the pharmaceutical industry employs in Sacramento.
Senator DeSaulnier told me that he is committed to making sure the CURES system will remain funded so doctors can continue to find out in real time if their patients are doctor shopping and pharmacy hopping for narcotics. Can’t wait to hear what he has to say on his upcoming visit.