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PA docs risk penalty for overprescribing opioids

| Dec 3, 2019 | Criminal Defense, Medical Nursing, Pennsylvania Criminal Law, Professional License Issues |

As the opioid crisis prevails, states have taken strict measures to reduce the use of these dangerous drugs. Attempts include limiting who may prescribe them, to what patients and in what doses, says Pharmacy Times. Massachusetts became the first state to restrict opioid treatment duration to just seven days, and for first-time patients with acute pain only. Since then, more than half of all states have followed suit, including Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is also one of six states that regulate opioid prescriptions among minors. Though state law does not prohibit the prescription of opioids to minors, it does require practitioners to discuss the risks with both minors and their guardians.

Since setting the seven-day limit, the main sponsor of the bill that limits opioid treatment to just a week also proposed legislature that mandates stricter penalties for practitioners who overprescribe the highly addictive drug. According to PennLive, the bill, which lawmakers passed only the week before the new proposition, does not contain any criminal or civil penalties for doctors who violate the seven-day limit. State senators agreed it is an area of law into which they need to look.

The new bill, if lawmakers passed it, would make it illegal for doctors to prescribe opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, for more than seven days. Exceptions to the law would be if a patient has cancer or terminal illness, or if he or she recently underwent major surgery. However, a physician would need to thoroughly document his or her reasons for prescribing a longer course of treatment. The doctor must also educate the patient on safe opioid use, as well as inform him or her of the risks associated with long-term opioid use. To help reduce opioid prescription rates, insurers throughout the state have also drastically reduced the duration of prescriptions for which they will pay.

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