A measure in the House tackles Florida’s opioid crisis by rethinking how to regulate prescription medication. If successful, lawmakers hope the new set of rules can curb opioid abuse.
House Bill 21 is the Florida Legislature’s effort to address the state’s opioid crisis. One way the measure does this is by limiting Schedule II prescriptions for acute pain cases. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), explains what those cases may be.
“This is not, I repeat, this is not getting at chronic pain management where somebody has a debilitating disease, they’ve been on pain meds for a number of years, and in order to manage their daily lives, and to get through the day, they have to have this medicine. This is simply aimed at the acute pain and the prescription that might be given at a doctor’s office, in the emergency room, or something that happened, you fell and broke your hip in my case cause I’m a little older than most of ya’ll, or something of the like that needs immediate treatment, but for a finite period of time,” Boyd says.
Acute pain cases would receive a three-day supply of prescribed opioid medication, or, if deemed medically necessary, a seven-day supply. These limitations tie in with the proposed requirement of a 2-hour education course for health care practitioners on how to prescribe controlled substances safely and effectively.
The bill also expands the use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Health care practitioners will be required to review a patient’s PDMP history before prescribing a controlled substance.
But, there is still debate around what acute pain is. Rep. Gayle Harrell (R- Stuart) shared her husband’s experience.
“My husband went through open heart surgery. I can tell you he could not have gone back to his physician in seven days following open heart surgery to get that additional prescription. I would have to get an ambulance to do that,” Harrell says.
There is a companion bill in the Senate working on a compromise that will cover such patients, as well as potentially changing the prescribing limits.
Dr. Hank Hutchinson, the Director of Orthopedic Trauma at the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, says these regulations give doctors a bad rap and do not consider a patient’s individual case.
“The assumption is that doctors are writing prescriptions for narcotics willy nilly and we’re not. I take care of patients. I just left the hospital an hour ago. A patient who had a broken femur, a segmental broken tibia, and a crushed foot. He’s gonna need more than three days and, when he leaves the hospital, he’s gonna need more than seven days, when he leaves the hospital," Hutchinson says.
He adds that the time limits for refills are arbitrary as well.
“Whatever day you choose to pick I think is arbitrary. ‘Cause patients are different, their injuries are different, their pain is different, and we treat them all differently,” Hutchinson says.
The bill passed unanimously in its final committee Wednesday. The changes bring the House and Senate proposals more in-line with one another.