West Virginia Senate votes to limit painkiller prescriptions
By MICHAEL VIRTANEN
Feb. 16, 2018
West Virginia's Senate voted unanimously Friday to limit new painkiller prescriptions for most patients in an effort to prevent addictions.
The bill generally would limit initial opioid prescriptions written for adults by their doctors to a seven-day supply.
"People know too well the consequences of the opioid crisis on our state," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Trump.
West Virginia had a record 887 fatal overdoses, 52 per 100,000 residents, in 2016 — the highest of the nation.
Preliminary state data for 2017 show 812 overdose deaths, but that total is expected to rise.
State officials say child placements in foster care now exceed 6,000, having risen 50 percent in the past several years because of parents' addictions.
First proposed by the Justice administration, the bill now goes to the House.
Sen. Ron Stollings, a physician, said doctors stepped up and helped shape the legislation, although it would increase their workload and could put their licenses at risk.
"We're basically codifying what many guidelines are," Stollings said. He called it "a step" in turning off the spigot of drugs, but noted many people have gotten addicted without a legitimate prescription, while the painkillers have provided many people who have disabling afflictions with a better quality of life.
Under the legislation, West Virginia's pharmacy board would report quarterly to the state's medical licensing boards about abnormal or unusual amounts of opioids prescribed by a doctor.
"They can basically shut you down. They can take your license just based on that number," Stollings said. He raised concerns about how subsequent administrative rules will be written.
The bill also would limit initial painkiller prescriptions to four days for outpatients at emergency and urgent-care facilities.
Prescriptions for minors and those written by dentists and optometrists would be limited to three days.
Subsequent prescriptions would be limited to 30 days, with two possible resupplies, with doctors required to check the state's database whether the patient also is getting painkillers elsewhere.
There are exceptions for patients in active cancer treatment, hospice, long-term care facilities or receiving medications prescribed for chronic pain or addictions.
Prescriptions for more than a seven-day supply would require patients to sign a contract agreeing not to get opioids elsewhere and to use only one pharmacy to get them.
Veterinarians would be limited to prescribing an initial seven-day supply.