May 19, 2017

A Trump Card for Opioids?

, Legislation

As the opioid epidemic continues to be discussed across the country, several states have created legislation that limits opioid prescriptions – and now the White House is taking a stance.

In March, President Donald Trump said he planned to name New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as chair of a new commission that will study and draft a national strategy to combat opioid addiction. Last week, Trump announced other new members to join Christie on the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

As of the end of last year, drug overdoses killed more Americans than guns and car crashes, according to federal statistics.

Gov. Christie, who declared opioid drug use a public health crisis and vowed to take on the opioid epidemic in his state, recently signed legislation to limit initial opioid prescriptions in New Jersey to go into effect this month and will apply to all licensed doctors, regardless of payer.

“Four out of every five heroin addicts start out on prescriptions opioids…but then they can’t get the opioids or they’re too expensive,” said Christie during a recent appearance on CNN.

The new legislation follows a recent trend of stricter opioid limitations. New Jersey joins nine other states, which have restricted opioid prescriptions to seven days or less. In addition to the five-day limitation, New Jersey physicians must create a pain-management treatment plan for patients that require chronic opioid use.

The law also mandates review of prescriptions every three month and a written record that associated risks have been discussed with the patient, in addition to other changes such as state-regulated health insurers cover the first four weeks of inpatient or outpatient substance abuse without the need for authorization.

More than 33,000 Americans died in 2015 from prescription opioids and heroin overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among those, New Jersey’s rate of heroin and fentanyl deaths have outpaced the national average, according to the CDC.

The legislation trend is likely to continue, as an increasing number of states are drafting legislature with similar opioid limits.

Louisiana lawmakers introduced HB 192 last week, which, if passed, would cap the amount of painkillers doctors can prescribe for patients with acute pain, though chronic pain patients would not be capped. In Vermont, new requirements for prescribing opioids will go into effect July 1.