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California is facing budget cuts that threaten to hamper efforts to fight prescription drug abuse at a time when more people in the state are illegally obtaining prescriptions. According to The Sacramento Bee, the state is facing a $71 million budget cut over two years, which could close the agency in charge of enforcing narcotics laws.

The cuts come in the wake of reports of increased thefts of prescription pads, and a 44 percent rise in reports of missing or stolen controlled substances from California pharmacies over three years.

The California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement oversees the 50 companies that are allowed to print prescription pads for California doctors. A bill pending in the state Senate would require printers to report theft or loss of pads within 24 hours, and would mandate all printer employees to be fingerprinted. If the state budget cuts go through, it is unclear who would oversee printers, the article notes. The bureau also oversees the state’s drug monitoring database that tracks sales of prescription drugs. The system is designed to prevent people from getting the same prescription multiple times from different doctors.

“This is the fastest growing drug problem we have in California and the country,” Kent Shaw, Acting Chief of the agency, told the newspaper. “It’s absolutely essential and critical that our prescription drug monitoring program be a part of fighting it.”

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