Lawmaker Wants To Stop Government Regulation of Painkiller Prescriptions

By Paul Gaita 12/22/17

An Arizona rep believes prescription regulation should be decided between doctors and their patients.

Scottsdale representative Jay Lawrence
Scottsdale representative Jay Lawrence Photo via YouTube

A Republican representative from Arizona has proposed legislation that will prevent state or local government from limiting the amount of prescription painkillers.

Scottsdale representative Jay Lawrence has said that regulating prescriptions should be a matter left to physicians and their patients, which stands in opposition to positions supported by Governor Doug Ducey and state health director Dr. Cara Christ, both of whom have either ordered or called to have initial opioid prescriptions restricted to no more than a week's supply, with the exception of certain provisions, in the face of Arizona's rising overdose death statistics.

While Lawrence agrees that prescription opioid dependency poses a serious threat to his constituents, he argued that "enough disciplines" already exist to adequately monitor prescriptions throughout the state.

"I want to see those disciplines in place so we know who is prescribing, how much they're prescribing, and if someone is shopping doctors," said Lawrence. "I do not believe that government can step in to tell the medical profession and tell medical doctors what is correct to prescribe."

For Daniel Scarpinato, a press aide for Governor Ducey, the representative's stance runs contrary to logic about the current situation in Arizona.

"In the last year, we've had hundreds of people die from opioid-related overdoses," he said. "That's a huge number of people. So, absolutely, something more needs to be done here." Scarpinato noted that medical professionals are not voicing opposition to Governor Ducey and Christ's plans, which as Capitol Media Services noted, are also supported by the Arizona Medical Association.

He also pointed to recent data from the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program, which found that four doctors in a single small county prescribed nearly 6 million pills over the course of a single year.

"We're not talking about blow-drying hair," said Scarpinato. "We’re talking about drugs that can be miracle drugs for some but are very addictive and we’ve seen can lead to death. [So] we need to give law enforcement the tools in law to be able to hold [medical professionals] accountable."

Under guidelines recommended by Ducey in September 2017, initial opioid prescriptions would be limited to five days for new patients, while maximum doses would also be limited. The guidelines would also require a tapering plan for pain medications and require prescriptions for such drugs to be filed electronically to limit diversion.

Cara Christ concurred with the decision, adding that the state recommended the five-day plan based on research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and restriction plans in other states.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.