Parker, Kern, Nard & Wenzel
Legal Updates

A Cure for Comp Carrier Concerns?

By
Jessica A. McClung

AB 528: CURES, Schedule V Drugs & New Reporting Requirements 

Assembly Bill 528 (AB 528) was recently amended to include language that might come as a welcome surprise to many workers’ compensation carriers. The Bill primarily seeks to add Schedule V drugs to the Controlled Substances Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES). However, the recent amendments to the Bill could also result in regulations being enacted which would permit workers’ compensation carriers to access CURES.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) oversees the regulation of controlled substances. If passed, AB 528 would require the DOJ to “adopt regulations regarding the access and use of the information within CURES. The Regulations shall, at a minimum, address all of the following…

  1. The process for approving, denying, and disapproving individuals or entities seeking access to information in CURES.
  2. The purposes for which a health care practitioner may access information in CURES.
  3. The conditions under which a warrant, subpoena, or court order is required for a law enforcement agency to obtain information from CURES as a part of a criminal investigation.
  4. The process by which information in CURES may be provided for educational, peer review, statistical, or research purposes.
  5. The conditions under which an insurer providing workers’ compensation coverage may access information in CURES for purposes of reviewing a workers’ compensation claim for approval or denial.”

That’s right- if AB 528 becomes law, workers’ compensation carriers may finally have direct access to CURES. It is unknown in what capacity carriers would have access to the system, whether it would be limited or what ultimate effect any access may have on the outcome of a workers’ compensation claim. However, it is proposed to be a valuable tool in reducing prescription drug abuse, which unfortunately may be a motivating factor in the filing of many workers’ compensation claims.

AB 528’s Other Effects?

Schedule V Controlled Substances

If passed, AB 528 would add Schedule V drugs to the CURES system, which currently only requires the reporting of Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances. (Schedule I substances have no accepted medical use in the United States and are therefore not included). Schedule V controlled substances have a low potential for abuse relative to the other schedules and primarily consist of medications containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule V medications that would require CURES reporting if AB 528 is approved are those involving limited quantities of certain narcotics- such as codeine (i.e. cough suppressants, such as Robitussin, containing not more than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 grams).

Pharmacy Reporting Timeframes

AB 528 also seeks to reduce the timeframe in which pharmacists are required to report dispensed prescriptions from seven (7) days to the following business day/one working day. The proposed change is a legislative attempt at combatting the growing opioid epidemic throughout the country. Proponents of the Bill believe reducing the reporting time for prescribed controlled substances may prevent their abuse, misuse, and addiction, which unfortunately have also become concerns within the workers’ compensation system. If approved, the Bill would provide CURES users with more up-to-date access to a patient’s pharmaceutical profile (updated by the following business day), in order to provide an earlier opportunity to detect abuse, misuse and possibly prevent “doctor shopping”.

AB 528 already passed a unanimous vote in the Assembly this spring. The amended version of the bill is currently pending before the Senate’s Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, which is set to vote on the amended Bill this summer. If AB 528 is signed into law, the DOJ would have until no later than January 1, 2021 to adopt the new regulations under its current reading.