New Law Changes Opioid Prescription Process
Recent opioid law changes reduce the amount of opioid pills physicians are allowed to prescribe and introduced several safeguards to prevent opioid abuse and addiction.
Senate Bill 1446 brought this law into effect on Nov. 1 so physicians will only be able to prescribe a week’s worth of opioid drugs. They must also limit the dosage to the lowest effective dose to manage acute pain.
Attorney General Mike Hunter said that this legislation is tracked from the seven day recommendation for opioid prescriptions from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“The goal here is to limit the danger that [is] attache[d] to the prescribing of opioids,” Hunter said. “It is established that about one out of every five people have vulnerability to addiction, whether it is drugs or alcohol.”
There were 793 drug related deaths in 2017 in Oklahoma, 210 being from Oklahoma County, with opioids accounting for 379. However, pharmaceutical deaths are on the rise, with 55 percent of last year’s drug related deaths being linked to pharmaceuticals, according to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.
“I think [Senate Bill 1446] is a step in the right direction, but I do have some problems with it,” said Joseph Tripodi, UCO political science professor. “The way I understand it, it puts the burden on physicians on how many pain meds they prescribe to a patient, which just is, I think, a small step in the right direction.”
This legislation also puts safeguards in place that help further prevent opioid abuse in the state. One safeguard mandates that before a patient can renew their prescription, for up to seven or more days, they have to have a documented consultation with the physician.
The consultation will allow the physician to evaluate whether or not the patient still needs the prescription and whether or not the prescription presents a risk for abuse or addiction.
Mark Woodward, spokesperson for the OBNDD said this piece of legislation has the potential to be very successful, and he thinks this documented consultation between patient and physician will be beneficial to that success.
“Limiting the first prescription to seven days and requiring a consultation and documentation for subsequent prescriptions will undoubtedly help save lives by giving the doctor more information prior to prescribing,” Woodward said.
The law also requires that for one hour a year, physicians must continue their education in pain management or in opioid abuse and addiction before they renew their license to practice.
“I think the medical community is responding in a responsible way with regard to recognizing that there has to be continuing education,” Hunter said. “One hour is certainly a good start and maybe as time goes by we can increase that.”
Woodward said more than the safeguards the law provides, he encourages everyone to take their own safeguards in regards to medication. He said to safeguard the pills that are kept at home and to dispose of pills that are no longer needed that can be targeted if they are left behind in a medicine cabinet.
The OBNDD has placed 178 drug disposal boxes in police and sheriff lobbies across the state, and there is one available at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Police Department.
Locally, the City of Edmond has also joined the fight against opioids after they voted in October to take action against opioid related claims. Through this, McAfee & Taft and Fulmer Sill Law have recommended the City of Edmond file lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
According to City of Edmond documents, the agreements with the firms are contingency-based, which means the attorney costs and accompanying expenses would be paid from any lawsuit settlement.