New York Considers Limiting Prescription Opioids For Residents

By McCarton Ackerman 06/01/16

A new proposal could limit patients to a five-day maximum supply of prescription opioids after an initial doctor's visit.

New York Considers Limiting Prescription Opioids For Residents

New York lawmakers are looking to crack down on the state’s opioid addiction crisis by taking it right to the doctor’s office. A new proposal in the New York State Assembly would limit the amount of prescription opioids that residents receive after their first visit to a doctor.

The Associated Press reported that Democrat John McDonald of the Assembly—who is also a pharmacist—sponsored the legislation, which he said is designed to remove “bottles of large amounts of opioids that are sitting in medicine cabinets.” His proposal would limit patients to five days' worth of drugs like OxyContin and hydrocodone. Depending on the drug, the amount of doses within that five-day period would vary. Receiving more medication would require patients to schedule another consultation with their doctor.

"It's all about the physician being coached and trained about how to be respectful of the power of these medications while at the same time being sensitive to the needs of the patient," said John Coppola, executive director of New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers.

The proposal comes as opioid abuse in New York hits record highs. Opioid-related emergency room visits throughout the state increased by 73% between 2010 and 2014. In 2013, the most recent year that figures were available, there were 952 opioid-related deaths. Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged last week to have a comprehensive plan to address opioid and heroin addiction in the state by no later than Wednesday.

However, some medical officials believe the pending legislation limits doctors too harshly. The Medical Society of the State of New York said the five-day limit was “arbitrary” and that the needs of each individual patient had to be considered. "We are establishing limits on the clinical decision making of prescribers that are not based on scientific evidence or protocol," said Liz Dears, senior vice president of the Medical Society.

Other states have adopted similar measures in recent weeks. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed legislation last week that limits patients to a seven-day supply, while minors won’t have the option of refilling unless it falls under a few specific exceptions.

Massachusetts became the first state to adopt a seven-day limit in March. Several other states including New Jersey are also considering revising their prescription guidelines or setting limits.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.