Are states going too far with painkiller script limits?

December 6, 2016

Arizona has become the latest state to limit opioid prescriptions-a trend that has some healthcare providers and experts concerned.

Arizona has become the latest state to limit opioid prescriptions-a trend that has some healthcare providers and experts concerned.

In October, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed an order that limits initial painkiller prescriptions to seven days “in all cases where the state is the payer.” The order also limits all fills for children, except for those with cancer, chronic disease, and traumatic injury.

Gov. Doug Ducy at legislation signing“These large prescriptions of highly addictive substances are incredibly dangerous, and we have to take action now. By limiting the fills of prescriptions for all state health plans, we hope to encourage private companies to consider similar action,” Ducey said.

Arizona joined Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, and New York in passing laws restricting painkiller prescriptions. However, some doctors have said the Arizona plan may be too restrictive and could interfere with physician-patient relationships, according to The Arizona Republic.

“These rules that ae being set by politicians are not taking into account the individual variability of patients,” Lynn Webster, an anesthesiologist and past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, told the newspaper.

In addition, some patients legitimately need opioids, said Dr. Mohab Ibrahim, a professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and director of a pain clinic. "For chronic users, it is very, very inconvenient to tell them they need to come to the clinic every week to get their prescription filled."

 

Ducey believes the measure is needed because in 2015, 401 people in Arizona died from prescription opioid overdoses.  And, in 2013, there were enough prescription pain medications dispensed to medicate every adult in Arizona around the clock for two weeks.

Ducey is particularly concerned about children and opioids, relaying this story: “I recently learned about a young boy who had his wisdom teeth removed and was sent home with a 30-day supply of opioids,” Ducey said. “This has to stop. These large prescriptions of highly-addictive substances are terribly harmful for everyone, but especially for our young people.”