Doctor’s Note: Opiate Crisis



Today, I want to address the ongoing opiate crisis in Virginia. 75 percent of opiate addictions start with a prescription from a medical provider. With the best intentions to relieve pain, the medical community has contributed to creating this horrible crisis. Data suggests that opiates are not necessary for most pain. Other states have taken measures to prevent the problem from growing worse, which you can read more about here.

We can do better this year. I am sponsoring legislation (SB1232) to limit prescribing of opiates for no longer than seven days for acute pain. It has been proven that the risk of addiction increases when opiates are prescribed for more than seven days. Experts at the federal level agree that we must limit opioid prescriptions to seven days for acute pain.

Additionally, emergency regulations are being written by the Board of Dentistry and the Board of Medicine for best practices, and to track the latest trends. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association has been working with the physicians to universally implement best ER practices in all state hospitals. Physicians have collaborated efforts to limit the prescription of opioids. The Board of Dentistry continues to place limits on prescribing opioids for acute pain.

Virginia already has a Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) that is available to prescribers. This program allows them to look back at prescriptions previously filled by the patients they are seeing. The program ensures that there are no dangerous conflicts between something the patient has already been prescribed and something the doctor is prescribing on that day. Additionally, doctors can see if other doctors have been prescribing narcotics to that patient. This same program can also be used to annually monitor and identify doctors who are over-prescribing.

Last year, legislation was passed that initiated this type of surveillance for over-prescribing. This year, in addition to other efforts to address this crisis, the PMP will be directed to report annually to the Virginia Joint Commission on Health Care, on which I sit. I will also be carrying legislation to make narcotic prescribing electronic. This bill will help reduce Fraud and Abuse of prescription pads (SB1230).

We should be able to see what we are doing well, but also what we can do better. We must continue to make every effort to save lives.