Doctors concerned about new seven-day prescription rules for pain pills in Ohio

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Several local doctors say new seven-day prescription rules in Ohio will likely help stem the tide of people getting addicted to pain killers. 

Nearly 4 out of 5 heroin users start by abusing opiates or pain pills, so Ohio is tightening the rules around prescribing them for acute pain – such as surgery or broken bones -- to attack the problem on the front end.

Dr. Melinda Lawrence, pain management specialist at  University Hospitals, is concerned, however, that the additional regulations and increased scrutiny is making some doctors skittish.

The new limits will be enacted through rules passed by the State Medical Board, and other state health boards, according Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s office.

Some physicians may not feel comfortable prescribing opioids, Dr. Lawrence said. They may be concerned about losing their license and as a result some patients may be undertreated

“I know for a fact that it's already happening. Even people who refer to me have felt this way and some people have elected not to prescribe these medications,” she said.

The new opiate prescribing limits for acute pain include:

  • No more than seven days of opiates can be prescribed for adults
  • No more than five days for minors
  • The new limits do not apply to opioids prescribe for chronic pain, cancer, palliative care, hospice care or medication-assisted treatment for addiction

According to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy there was already a downward trend in opiates being prescribed -- with 162 million fewer pills in Ohio in 2016. But according to a board spokesman the numbers of new prescription are still much too high  -- some 631 million pills in 2016.

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