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In wake of Michael Jackson case, officials to unveil upgraded state prescription drug database

September 15, 2009 |  6:32 am

Michaeljackson State officials are set to unveil improvements to their prescription medication tracking system this morning, including the capability to instantly flag whether patients are abusing those drugs, an issue highlighted with the deaths of celebrities Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson.

The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, known as CURES, includes more than 100 million entries for controlled substances prescribed in California. But doctors and pharmacists had to wait days to find out whether a patient was seeking a prescription legitimately or not.

The upgraded system allows healthcare professionals to instantly track a broad range of controlled substances, including anti-anxiety medications, painkillers and sedatives through the Internet. It also gives law enforcement officials access to the database to combat prescription drug abuse.

The CURES system, which has been in use for a decade, contains the name of every doctor that prescribes controlled medicines, the person for whom the drug is prescribed, the quantity and the date.

California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who will announce the improvements this morning at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles, argued for the need to upgrade the system last year after the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

Earlier this year, prosecutors charged Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend and two of her doctors with repeatedly supplying the former Playboy centerfold with addictive prescription drugs since 2004, nearly three years before she died of an overdose.

More recently, state officials provided help to the LAPD in its investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of pop star Michael Jackson, who died June 25 in what the Los Angeles County coroner's office has ruled was a homicide due to acute intoxication from the anesthetic propofol.

In search warrants, police have cited Jackson’s use of pseudonyms to procure prescriptions. Brown told The Times last month that authorities wanted to be able to monitor prescriptions to make sure that the drugs were linked to a diagnosis of a medical problem and not being abused.

--Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Michael Jackson in 2005. Credit: Michael A. Mariant / Associated Press

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