Last week, on April 10th, a proposed law was approved by the House of Representatives in a unanimous decision. The goal behind this new law is to curb Oregon’s opioid epidemic and ensure that no more people die from overdoses. Under this new law, health-care practitioners who prescribe opioid painkiller medications will now receive safe-use recommendations.
Under this new bill, a certain number of health-care practitioners would have been able to prescribe a supply of opioid pills to last no more than 7 days. Furthermore, anyone who would have improperly prescribed opioid medication would have been criminalized. Unfortunately, the House Health Care Committee retracted these earlier provisions that were to be a part of this bill. Even the Oregon Medical Association advocated against the inclusion of these beneficial provisions.
The most support that this measure received was from the Oregon Attorney General’s Office due to how severely risky addiction and overdose have become. The amount of opioids that were prescribed in Oregon back in 2014 suggest that almost every citizen of the state could have had a bottle. Based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription opioids resulted in the deaths of over 15,000 people in the United States back in
Jennifer Williamson and Mitch Greenlick, both of whom are Democratic representatives, were the ones who sponsored the original bill. Under the original bill, prescriptions would have been limited to seven days. The only exception would have been if a patient was suffering from pain as a result of an acute medical condition like cancer and the health-care practitioner determined that more medication would be required. Under the original bill, it would have also been a crime if a health-care practitioner did not agree to inspections or refused to provide records.
Mark Bonanno, the General Counsel of the Oregon Medical Association, claimed back in February 28th, 2017 that “criminalizing prescription writing” was not an effective solution towards improving patient. According to him, this would only make health-care practitioners afraid of getting prosecuted for prescribing opioid medications. He claimed that patients suffering from various types of pain would no longer be able to receive adequate and effective treatment if that were to happen. Thus, the original bill was amended.
Currently, the Oregon Board of Dentistry, Oregon Medical Board and the Oregon State Board of Nursing have a list health-care practitioners that they regulate. Under the amended bill, they will now provide notice of opioid-related safe use recommendations to those practitioners.
As per those guidelines, practitioners can only prescribe the “lowest effective dosage” of opioid painkillers. Opioid therapy will only be an option if the therapy will really improve the patient’s function and reduce pain significantly, and the risks are relatively minimal. Where not necessary, clinicians will have to avoid prescribing benzodiazepines and opioid medications. Clinicians will also have to make a patient take a urine test if they suspect that the patient might be misusing, selling or sharing their opioid medication. Even though the House of Representatives has passed the bill, it still has to be passed by the Oregon Senate too.