Senator’s bill to clear prescriptions during crises signed by governor

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Doctor with stethoscope
Valley News - Health

A Riverside County lawmaker’s bill to relieve pharmacists from complying with every security requirement in processing prescriptions for painkillers and other drugs during emergencies will be state law Jan. 1.

Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, introduced Senate Bill 569 in February, and it was unanimously approved by both the Assembly and Senate. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the measure into law Wednesday.

Stone brought the bill forward, with the support of the California State Board of Pharmacy, based on the experiences of patients and health care providers during the 150,000-acre Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise last year, killing dozens.

According to Stone, who is a licensed pharmacist, people suffering emotional disorders and health complications requiring a regimen of pain medication sought to fill prescriptions at temporary facilities staffed by medical personnel, but ran into problems because they did not have the security-compliant paper prescriptions that can be scanned and automatically entered into the state’s Controlled Substance Utilization, Review and Evaluation System, or CURES.

SB 569 establishes an exemption from the security-compliant form in the event of a “declared disaster.”

“Patient care areas during a disaster may occur in nontraditional settings, such as emergency shelters in public schools or churches,’” according to a board statement attached to the legislation. “Such locations are not equipped to provide traditional medical patient care services and volunteer medical providers may not have access to compliant controlled substances security forms.”

The bill will permit doctors to write prescriptions on whatever forms they have available under emergency conditions. Pharmacists, who may be working out of temporary evacuation centers, churches or public schools, would be able to honor the prescriptions, using their “appropriate professional judgment” as to the forms’ authenticity and patients’ need for them.

The legislation specifies, however, that pharmacists will only be permitted to dispense a seven-day supply of Schedule II drugs, which fall under the federal Controlled Substances Act.