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New Statewide Opioid Prescribing Rules Take Effect This week

State officials have enacted new regulations to curb what they say is overprescribing of opioid painkiller medications to patients who may not really need them

Beginning this week, Ohio, doctors, dentists and nurses will be required to follow new rules for prescribing opioid medications.

The rules include limits to opioid prescriptions for conditions such as broken bones, sprains and minor surgery to seven days for adults and five days for minors.

The changes are similar to those already enacted in a handful of other states, including Rhode Island, Virginia and New Jersey.

Cameron McNamee, director of policy and communications at the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, points to state data showing many opioid addicts begin their addictions through the abuse of shared or stolen prescription pills.

He says the goal of the new policy is to keep unused painkillers from ending up in the hands of drug addicts and prevent over-prescribing to legitimate patients.

“They get what they need but not more than they need. And we often see people getting a large supply for something that is going to resolve within three to five to seven days. And so we wanted to make sure that we reduced the amount of opioids that are out there for abuse and diversion,” he says.

McNamee estimates the rule changes could keep more than 109 million opioid doses from being prescribed to people who may not need them. Ohio prescribers gave out 631 million doses in 2016. 

“We are trying to target the “friends and family fund” he says. “There is an inextricable, definite link between opioid abuse and going out and using illicit substances like fentanyl and heroin, and we need to be able to control what we can control and that comes down to our prescribers.”

The new rules include exceptions for the treatment of chronic pain, hospice care, cancer and other serious or life-threatening conditions.

Beginning later this year, prescribers will also be required to include a diagnosis or procedure code on every prescription they write for a controlled substance.

The information will be tracked through the state’s prescription monitoring program known as OARRS.

This additional provision takes effect on December 29, 2017, for all opioid prescriptions and June 1, 2018, for all other controlled substance prescriptions.