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3 States Laying Down the Law on Opioids

Posted: October 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Basics, Controlled Substances, In the News, Public Policy, Security, Standards | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

On par with our last post, the widespread media attention and devastating losses associated with our nation’s current opioid epidemic has sparked certain state legislatures to regulate and improve providers’ prescribing habits for prescription painkillers.

With good intentions in tow, some rulings seem to lack readily available solutions that are proven to curb this crisis. However, they do realize that their recent proposals do not mark the end of this uphill battle, rather multifaceted solutions need to be in place to truly, and successfully, overcome this epidemic.

[Read: Overdose Awareness – The Time to Stand Together is Now]

Here are three states that have recently proposed rulings on how opioids should be prescribed:


Coined as a “cutting-edge” approach to overcoming the opioid crisis, Governor Peter Schumlin announced proposed limits on the number of opioid medications that could be prescribed.

Like every other state, Vermont has seen an incredible increase in deaths related to opioid and heroin overdose in recent years and Governor Schumlin is no longer sitting on the sidelines.

Earlier this year, he approached both the FDA and pharmaceutical industry in his State of the State address claiming that OxyContin “lit the match that ignited America’s opiate and heroin addiction crisis,” and that the booming American opiate industry knows no shame, an outcry after the FDA approved OxyContin for children a few months ago.

The proposed ruling states that the severity and duration of pain will determine the specific limit for a prescription of opioids. For example, a minor procedure with moderate pain would be limited to 9-12 opioid pills and the amount would increase based on the procedure performed and the level of pain a patient claims. The ruling would also require providers to discuss risks, provide an education sheet to the patient and receive an informed consent for all first-time opioid prescriptions.

The Green Mountain State’s Governor believes that limiting the number of opioid pills prescribed would be an effective way to reduce addiction, yet some folks believe the ruling would only encourage patients to seek illicit drugs elsewhere if they cannot receive pain medication through their provider.

This does make sense considering many former and current heroin abusers have stated that their addiction started from a prescription and when the pill bottle ran out, they were left seeking these drugs on the streets, which have proven to be very, if not more, dangerous than the prescription.

However, the intent of the Governor’s ruling is to prevent addiction from ever happening in the first place. His ruling is specific to cases of acute pain, therefore changing the over-prescribing habits and learned behavior of utilizing opioids as first-line therapy; habits that ensued in large part due to incentives, the surge of pharmaceutical marketing tactics and claims that painkillers were not addictive.

[Read: How Costly Are Prescription Pain Meds?]

New Jersey

With the rate of drug overdose deaths on the rise by 137% since 2000, New Jersey is another state to recently propose new regulations on how and to whom opioids are prescribed.

New Jersey, much like many other states, believes that prevention is key when fighting this crisis and they couldn’t be more correct. Unfortunately, several barriers often occur when seeking appropriate treatment after a patient becomes addicted, (for example, providers are limited to certain amounts for which they can administer reversal drugs), and therefore why not PREVENT addiction, rather than simply TREAT addiction when at many times, it’s too late?

Senator Raymond Lesniak has introduced a bill that would put restrictions on health insurance coverage for opioid medications, while also requiring prescribers to first consider alternative pain-management treatments, follow federal prescribing guidelines and explain the risk of addiction with such substances to their patients before prescribing. Furthermore, providers will need to complete several steps before receiving approval of an opioid prescription. These steps include providing a patient’s medical history, conducting a physical exam and developing an appropriate medical plan for treating a patient’s pain.

While new rulings in place can certainly shift this epidemic, Angela Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, said it best:

“Awareness and education is the key factor in preventing the abuse of opiates—everyone must have a role in reversing this epidemic, including lawmakers, parents, coaches, educators, and yes, even doctors and dentists.” – Angela Valente

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians Responsible for Opioid Prescribing, further backs Valente’s point while also motioning that the medical community has been prescribing too aggressively.

[Read: The Opioid Epidemic: Are Dentists the Black Sheep?]


Unfortunately, Pennsylvania experienced 3,500 deaths last year as a result from drug overdose, one of the highest overdose rates in the nation.

The state has had a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program for quite a few years now, however it wasn’t functional until August 2016, when their new program was officially rolled out. Pennsylvania requires providers to query the state’s prescription drug database the first time they prescribe a controlled substance to a patient or if they have reason to believe that the patient is doctor shopping.

Governor Tom Wolf addressed other initiatives underway including requiring providers to query the database EACH time they prescribe opioids, updating medical school curriculum and continuing education, changes to the process of pain care to lower inappropriate use of opioids, and improved screening, referral and treatment for addiction.

What’s bothersome in Pennsylvania, is the method in which these substances have to be prescribed. The Pennsylvania Controlled Substance Act requires narcotic prescriptions to be handwritten on paper prescription pads, yet every other substance can be electronically prescribed. This allows the risk of written prescriptions being lost, stolen, or sold. Luckily, Senator Richard Alloway intends to introduce this measure before the legislative session’s end.

It’s promising to see how the above states are utilizing their state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, or PDMP. All three require their prescribers to query the affiliated state database, however the parameters in which, or how often, they check varies.

While said efforts are better than no effort at all and states are starting to fully understand the need for multifaceted solutions in order to overcome this epidemic, one key solution is missing. E-Prescribing.

[Read: The Link Between PDMP’s and e-Prescribing]

How does e-Prescribing help combat this epidemic?

  • e-Prescribing diminishes the possibilities of duplicate or lost prescriptions since the prescription is sent directly to the patient’s pharmacy
  • A patient will no longer have a paper prescription where the dispense quantity can be altered
  • Prescribers will have access to a patient’s medication history, therefore they can determine if a patient is “doctor shopping” or has a history of substance abuse

To learn how to incorporate e-Prescribing as a solution to the opioid epidemic, schedule a meeting with DoseSpot today.

Sources: NY Times; Boston.com; ABC News; Press of Atlantic City; PennLive

About DoseSpot

DoseSpot is a Surescriptsâ„¢ certified e-Prescribing platform specifically designed to integrate with electronic health record, electronic dental record, practice management and telehealth software. DoseSpot is certified to e-Prescribe controlled substances and has provided simple, affordable and integratable e-Prescribing solutions to healthcare IT companies since 2009. For more information, please visit www.DoseSpot.com.

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