Tag Archives: controlled substance review and evaluation system

California SB 863, a Guide to Building and Monitoring Networks with Intelligence, Part 3

This is Part 3 of a multi-part series on building and monitoring networks with intelligence. Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.

California has defined how medical networks in Workers’ Compensation should be structured and managed. Part 1 and Part 2 of this series described how California’s SB 863 LC 4616 (b) (2) and LC 4616 (b)(3) takes medical provider network directives to a new level. The key imperative is, “Every MPN must establish and follow procedures continuously to review the quality of care, performance of medical personnel, utilization of services, facilities, and costs. However, a few additional key points should be considered when selecting and monitoring medical providers for the California MPN or any network.

Beyond legislation
Escalating problems in the industry with Opioid overuse and abuse, as well as physicians who are dispensing medications from their offices are additional factors that must be considered. While the California SB 863 legislation does not address these issues, the data should be scrutinized to identify physicians who demonstrate unfavorable prescriptive practices. Analyzing the data to evaluate physician performance in that regard is essential to vetting physicians for membership in a network. It is also crucial to monitoring networks going forward.

Opioid Over-Prescribers
Workers’ Compensation literature is replete with information about Opioid overuse and abuse with its disastrous human and resource waste. Unfortunately, measures taken to curb inappropriate prescribing behavior are few and vary widely across the country.

Simply stated, the best way to reduce Opioid abuse is to avoid Opioid over-prescribers. Analysis of the data will identify the perpetrators. They should never be a part of a Workers’ Compensation medical network.

Back to California – CURES
California has a program that approaches the problem by monitoring patient utilization of prescribed Schedule II drugs and making that information available to authorized prescribers and distributors (pharmacies) of controlled drugs.

California’s program is called CURES (Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, and PDMP (California Prescription Drug Monitoring Program).1 The California Department of Justice, has a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) system which “allows pre-registered users including licensed healthcare prescribers eligible to prescribe controlled substances, pharmacists authorized to dispense controlled substances, law enforcement, and regulatory boards to access timely patient controlled substance history.

The California Attorney General's Office said that if doctors and pharmacies have access to controlled substance history information at the point of care it will help them make better prescribing decisions and cut down on prescription drug abuse in California. The role of the CURES/PDMP ensures that well-informed prescribers and pharmacists can and will use their professional expertise to evaluate their patients’ care and assist those patients who may be abusing controlled substances.

The state’s database known as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (C.U.R.E.S) contains over 100 million entries of controlled substance drugs that were dispensed in California. Each year the CURES program responds to more than 60,000 requests from practitioners and pharmacists. The online CURES/PDMP system will make it much easier for authorized prescribers and pharmacists to quickly review controlled substance information via the automated Patient Activity Report (PAR) in an effort to identify and deter drug abuse and diversion through accurate and rapid tracking of Schedule II through IV controlled substances.”

Submission Of Controlled Substance Data
Pursuant to Health & Safety Code Section 11190, and Business & Professions Code Section 1170, all licensees who dispense Schedule II through IV controlled substances must provide the dispensing information to the Department of Justice on a weekly basis in a format approved and accepted by the Atlantic Associates Inc. (AAI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Similarly, pursuant to California Health and Safety Code Section 11165(d), dispensing pharmacies and clinics must provide weekly dispensing reports to the DOJ on Schedule II, III, and IV prescription drugs.

For purposes of creating an intelligent MPN, ensure any physician under consideration for an MPN in California is a member of CURES/PDMP. That notwithstanding, the data should be monitored continuously to determine actual performance.

Physician-Dispensed Medications
Another prescription abuse issue not addressed by the California legislation is physician-dispensed medications. While it is portrayed as a patient convenience, and probably is, the medications are prepackaged and extraordinarily costly. Once again, this practice can be monitored in the data. Bills reflecting drugs dispensed by the treating doctor are not monitored by Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBM). Rather, they appear in normal provider billing.

Networks With Intelligence
All medical provider networks serving any jurisdiction should analyze integrated data, meaning all data associated with claims. Integrated data is sourced from claims level systems, bill review systems, PBM systems, and other sources such as utilization review to understand the broad spectrum of claims and all individuals, organizations, and events touching them. The goal is to select best-in-class doctors by objectively identifying excellent provider performance.

Authors
Karen Wolfe collaborated with Margaret Wagner to write this article. Ms. Wagner is President and CEO of  Signature Networks Plus. She is considered an expert in network selection, monitoring and management, thereby creating Networks with Intelligence™ for clients.

1 http://oag.ca.gov/cures-pdmp

Prescription Drug Abuse – Progress In Sacramento

On May 30, the California Senate passed Senate Bill 809 (DeSaulnier) unanimously. This bill has as its primary goal the continued funding of the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) in the California Department of Justice. Over the past year, considerable attention has been brought to the issue of abuse of prescription painkillers nationwide and across all benefit systems. Well-publicized research in California by the California Workers' Compensation Institute (CWCI) and multi-state analyses by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. (NCCI) and the Workers' Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) have quantified the tragic effects of over-prescribing these medications.

SB 809 seeks to do more, however, than simply develop a stable funding source for this program. The recent Senate action, while important, demonstrates that not all issues surrounding the CURES program are likely to be resolved in 2013. As a series of investigative reports done by the Los Angeles Times pointed out, participation in the CURES program by physicians is not mandatory, and there is no adequate mechanism in place to report unusual prescribing patterns by physicians to the Medical Board of California. While the funding legislation for CURES will address the latter problem, there is still no requirement that prescribers access the database before prescribing a Schedule II – IV controlled substance. However, all prescribers and dispensers will be required to register with the CURES system, which in and of itself is an important development for the Department of Justice and the Medical Board in their efforts to identify and investigate abusive prescription patterns and to combat diversion of the medications for illicit purposes.

Also, stripped from the bill was a tax on manufacturers of controlled substances that would have been used for enhanced law enforcement capabilities throughout the state. This was a critical development that policy makers still need to address, either in this legislation or through the budget process.

Even though a targeted tax on manufacturers is not palatable to the Legislature, the need to fund better enforcement of the laws governing illicit sales of prescription drugs remains a high priority. The funding in the current bill will allow the CURES program to be maintained and improved, but law enforcement will still not have what it needs to investigate physicians and pharmacists who are violating the law and bring them to justice.

While California's workers' compensation system does not have the same level of protections against prescription drug abuse as other state workers' compensation systems, there are resources at our disposal to limit the danger of these medications.

The Medical Treatment Utilization Schedule, utilization review, and Independent Medical Review (IMR) recently added by Senate Bill 863 will assist payers in their effort to curb overutilization of these medications while still addressing the very real clinical need for relief from acute pain and management of chronic pain resulting from an occupational injury. The Division of Workers' Compensation is expected to release new guidelines on pain management later this year that should further assist in this process. And the workers' compensation system, like all other healthcare financing programs, will benefit from the enactment of SB 809. It's a good start, but we are a long way away from declaring this problem solved.

The abuse of high powered prescription pain medication is a public health crisis with workers' compensation implications. The path to a solution requires the active participation of the medical and pharmacy communities, drug manufacturers, law enforcement, medical benefit payers — whether public programs, private group health plans or workers' compensation insurers and self-insured employers — and state and federal agencies and boards overseeing the development and use of these medications.

Progress is being made, but more work needs to be done. The goal is not simply for payers to be better able to say “no”. The goal is also not simply being able to avoid the costs of these medications and the complications their abuse creates and have those costs be borne somewhere else. The goal is delivering the highest quality treatment for an injured worker. A back injury, for example, doesn't automatically require surgery in all circumstances any more than it requires an injured worker to face the prospect of drug dependency.

If we use the tools at our disposal compassionately and intelligently and if we continue to press policy makers and regulators to take all steps necessary to protect patients from the improper use of these medications, then we will be able to measure success in more than dollars saved. If Governor Brown gets SB 809 on his desk and signs it, it will become effective immediately. That's a good first step, but there will still be much work to do.