Why does a California senator want to make it harder to catch bad doctors?

The prescription drug epidemic is a serial killer, claiming thousands of lives in the U.S. each year.

Opioid pill mills, trading in dangerous narcotics like oxycodone, have been shut down in Southern California and beyond, but investigators say there’s more work to be done.

Doctors have been arrested and prosecuted, including a Rowland Heights physician convicted of murder a year and a half ago in the deaths of three patients who overdosed on prescription meds.

So here’s a quiz.

A bill pending in Sacramento would:

A) Strengthen protections for patients and the general public.

B) Stiffen sanctions against offending doctors.

C) Make it easier to prosecute dirty doctors.

D) Make it harder to prosecute dirty doctors.

Hard to believe, but the answer is D.

As the law stands now, officers who investigate tips about doctors who write questionable prescriptions can check a monitoring database maintained by the California Department of Justice. There, they can look for patterns, or connections to criminal enterprises including big-time distributors and gang operations.

This database, which goes by the unfortunate name of the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), is a vital resource, law enforcement officials say.

Is this helping patients or doctors?

But under Senate Bill 641, by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), law enforcement officials would need to get a search warrant before using CURES to check on a doctor.

Why the change?

“Given the sensitive and confidential nature of the information within this system, there is a need to strengthen patient privacy protections,” Lara said in a statement emailed to me by his staff.

Lara, who is running for state insurance commissioner and is the author of California’s pending single-payer healthcare bill, said New York and Oregon require judicial permission before investigators can access their prescription-monitoring…

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