In an attempt to combat the opioid epidemic in Florida, a legislation restricting opioid prescriptions for three days or maximum seven days in case of serious illnesses is likely to be passed soon. But the doctors are opposing it as many cases of acute pain may warrant an extended supply of opioids and the flexibility of writing prescriptions is going to be a challenge. The doctors especially worry about the patients who have limited access to transportation or are immobile as they may have a difficulty visiting their physicians every three or seven days for the refill.
Dr. Hank Hutchinson, an orthopedic surgeon from Tallahassee candidly told the Appropriations committee that the limits on the prescription are random. He said that all patients were different, everyone was treated differently for their pain, and doctors were competent enough to write prescriptions that were medically relevant. Fraser Cobb, executive director of the Florida Orthopedic Society, said that he has given his suggestions but the chances of a compromise are bleak. Besides, he failed to understand how pain can be defined by law.
Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton, an area with the highest number of per capita death rate in 2016 due to fentanyl analogues, stated that the new move isn’t an attempt to teach doctors how to prescribe as they already understand the enormity of the problem. All the parties have thought progressively in finding an effective way out of the problem. Lizbeth Benacquisto, state senate and a republican from Fort Meyers shared that for major procedures like hip surgery and heart surgery, discussions were underway to allow an extended prescription.
Between 2015 and 2016, The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported a 35 percent rise in opioid-related deaths. Governor Rick Scott had declared a public health emergency in the state in May 2017 and suggested some measures, including putting a limit to prescriptions, to control the crisis situation. The new law also includes a revamp of the statewide database to monitor the prescriptions and rein in illegal pain clinics. The database of Florida will be aligned with the databases of 40 other states preventing doctor shopping behavior among patients. According to Lauren Schenone, press secretary for Scott “ The Governor’s proposal is based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and is applicable only to acute pain, not chronic pain such as cancer and hospice care.”
The initial days of opioid treatment are critical to control the risk of long-term use as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The report established that with the third day, the chances of chronic opioid use increased with each additional day of medication, especially among non-cancer patients who were prescribed pain relievers. Additionally, if the doctors check the database regularly before writing a prescription and are properly trained in correct prescribing practices, the state can minimize the risk of addiction and save many lives.
Making recovery from drug addiction possible
The opioid crisis has ravaged the entire country to the extent that it has been declared a public health emergency by the federal government. Despite the relentless hard work of the state and federal bodies, the overdose deaths are on the rise. The CDC estimates that at least six out of 10 drug overdose deaths involve an opioid. Since 1999, deaths due to opioids like oxycodone, methadone, and hydrocodone have almost gone up four times. On an average, 91 Americans die due to opioid overdose each day.
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