Opioids and prescription pain medication appear to be in the crosshairs of lawmakers as the 2018 legislative session draws closer.
A proposal filed in the state House Friday would set a strict limit on how long an opioid prescription can last – three days – with a maximum of seven days, and require doctors to check a registry of pain medication prescriptions before writing one for a patient.
The bill, HB 21 is sponsored by Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), and has support from several lawmakers including Fort Myers Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, who is expected to file a companion bill.
In a news release Friday, Gov. Rick Scott applauded the measure. Scott has been campaigning heavily in recent months for the state to take stronger action to limit opioid abuse, including a call for the state to spend $50 million on substance abuse treatment and counseling, and stricter regulations directed at pain management clinics.
“Families across our state are struggling with the pain and loss inflicted by the national opioid epidemic and today, I am proud that Senator Benacquisto and Representative Boyd are filing important legislation to help combat this terrible crisis,” Scott said in the release. “I know how painful substance abuse is for a family and no family in our state should experience the anguish and heartbreak that opioid abuse brings.”
HB 21’s limit on painkillers sets the limit on a course at three days, but doctors can write a prescription of up to seven days if, the bill says, the longer course is “medically necessary to treat the patient’s pain as an acute medical condition.”
The goal of the bill is to combat opioid abuse and overdoses. Opioid overdoses were responsible for nearly 3,900 deaths in Florida in 2015, according to the most recent complete year data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In a May report from FDLE, an additional 2,664 opioid deaths happened in just the first six months of 2016.
“The opioid epidemic continues to cause pain and death in our communities each and every day, and we must act now,” Benacquisto said. “I’m proud to work with Governor Scott and Representative Boyd as part of the solution to this tragic problem that plagues so many individuals and families across the State of Florida. I’m hopeful that we can pass legislation that truly helps stem the tide of addiction to opiates and help folks move toward a successful recovery.”
In addition to the time limit, doctors will now be required to check patients in a state database before prescribing a controlled substance. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is required viewing for pharmacists before filling a prescription, but the legislation would expand its reach to doctors for viewing before issuing one.
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