Bill addresses opioid epidemic, aims to reduce addiction risks
Patients who require opioid prescriptions would have less risk of addiction under legislation introduced by Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36th Dist.) on March 19.
Aument’s bill would require patients to enter into treatment agreements with prescribers to ensure patients understand the risks of addiction and the importance of adhering to safe, responsible guidelines for opioid use.
The treatment agreements would require new patients to undergo baseline and periodic drug testing to monitor adherence to the prescribed treatment plans.
These requirements would not apply in medical emergencies, to patients with existing relationships with a medical provider, cancer patients nor those who are terminally ill.
Aument said that the drug testing requirement would help prescribers identify prior drug use and verify that patients are sticking to the prescribed treatment plan and not abusing prescription medications.
“Many of today’s addiction problems result from legal prescription use that eventually spirals out of control,” Aument said. “Setting clear guidelines for patients and prescribers can help protect against the misuse of opioids so we can stop addiction before it starts.”
Aument’s legislation is built from recommendations contained in the guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain in the United States which were issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as Pennsylvania’s guidelines on the use of opioids to treat chronic non-cancer pain.
Each of those authorities, in addition to a report from the General Assembly’s Joint State Government Commission issued in February, cited the value of detection and diagnosis as a key strategy to helping address the growing opioid epidemic.
Additionally, the practice Aument is promoting has been endorsed by the United States Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and is already a policy used by several health care insurers, including Capital Blue Cross, Highmark Blue Shield and WellSpan Health.
“Sadly, there is no ‘silver bullet’ to solve all of the problems associated with the opioid epidemic. It is a complex problem that must be addressed from every angle,” Aument said. “This legislation is another piece in the puzzle to prevent more patients from falling victim to addiction as a result of legal prescriptions that are misused.”
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency reports that the total number of fatal drug overdoses in Pennsylvania rose 37 percent from 2015 to 2016. On average, 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Opioid addition and its related issues are a clear and present danger to our people, families and communities,” said Aument. “The seriousness of this issue demands that we do all that we can, and it is my hope that this proposal will offer another part of the solution.”