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Tidal wave of opioid-related legislation looms


A few days after Pennsylvania’s opioid prescription law limiting emergency room prescriptions to seven days with no refills went into effect on Jan. 1, lawmakers in neighboring New Jersey began introducing their own form of prescriber limits — five days for new prescriptions, according to a matching set of bills set before the state’s Senate and Assembly.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Maryland and Utah are proposing similar legislation with a seven-day limit. In Georgia, one proposed law would make it a crime for a doctor to ignore information on whether a patient was getting too many opioid prescriptions.

Experts are predicting more opioid laws nationwide, and while the legal language rarely mentions workers compensation, doctors treating injured workers will have to align themselves with the new regulations, experts say.

“It’s happening all over the country,” said Dr. Teresa Bartlett, Troy, Michigan-based vice president of medical quality at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., who recently tallied eight states that have either enacted or proposed legal limits and other laws governing opioids. “All of (the opioid proposals and laws) will affect workers comp … in all of the states. It’s relative to all doctors who practice in that state, even though it does not specify for workers comp. If you have prescribing authority in your license, it applies to you.”

Phil Walls, Tampa, Florida-based chief clinical officer for pharmacy benefits manager Matrix Healthcare Services Inc., which does business as myMatrixx, noticed that many of the laws mention health insurers — often without realizing that workers comp is not health insurance; it’s property and casualty. “We get left out a lot,” he said.

“The way I read (the legislation in New Jersey), I think the law is absolutely going to apply to what physicians do regardless of who is paying for the prescription,” said Mr. Walls. “It really doesn’t matter which patient the physician is treating.”

“The good news is we are seeing fewer and fewer opioid prescriptions, (and) it is not from a single cause, it’s from a multitude of efforts,” said Mr. Walls, applauding the wave of new proposals, albeit with caution. “I don’t like to see legislation in medicine … but it’s necessary.”




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