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Opioid Addiction

Hospices, Emergency Rooms Could Get Exemption From Opioid-Alternative Ruling

Emergency responders providing care to a patient in the back of an ambulance.
Peter Haden/WLRN

A House committee on Thursday approved a bill that would carve out hospice services and treatment provided in hospital critical-care units or emergency rooms from a 2019 law that requires physicians to notify patients about non-opioid alternatives. 

The proposal (HB 743) unanimously cleared the House Health & Human Services Committee and is ready to be heard by the full House. A Senate version (SB 1080) has been approved by two panels and is waiting to be heard in the Senate Rules Committee.

The law passed last year requires physicians to have conversations with patients about non-opioid alternatives before providing anesthesia or prescribing, ordering, dispensing or administering opioid drugs known as Schedule II controlled substances. The law also requires physicians to distribute a state-approved pamphlet on alternatives to opioids and document compliance with the law in patients’ medical records.

But the law, which went into effect July 1, caused confusion among physicians, and there were initial glitches with the pamphlet.

The Florida Medical Association was hit with a barrage of questions that it could not answer, according to a July 10 letter to Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees.

The Florida Board of Medicine last year also agreed to alter its disciplinary rules to ensure that physicians who ran afoul of the mandate pay fines for initial violations rather than facing greater disciplinary actions. In addition to exempting hospice services and emergency care from the law, the House bill, sponsored by Rep. Scott Plakon, R- Longwood, would remove a requirement to discuss non-opioid alternatives when a drug is dispensed or administered.

It also authorizes practitioners to discuss non-opioid alternatives with the patients’ representatives and provide the pamphlet to patients’ representatives instead of the patients.