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Arkansas board approves new rules for opioid prescriptions

April 6, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas board has approved regulations that add more requirements for doctors prescribing high doses of opioids.

The Arkansas State Medical Board approved the new rules 12-1 Thursday despite complaints from chronic-pain patients seeing reduced opioid prescriptions.

“My pain medicine has been cut since June last year, by 85 percent,” said patient James Spencer.

Some board members said doctors appear to be misinterpreting the rules as limiting dosages instead of requiring they take extra precautions when the dosages exceed certain amounts.

The new rules would limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain. They would also require doctors to justify a prescription with daily doses of more than 50 morphine milligram equivalents.

The rules are based on guidelines issued in 2016 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’re designed to reduce the abuse of opioid medications such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine.

The rules wouldn’t apply to prescriptions issued to patients being treated for cancer or who are in hospice care, end-of-life care, palliative care, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, hospitals or during emergencies.

“We don’t want you to not get what you need, but we want you to be functional, and we don’t want you to be a zombie because of your treatment, and we don’t want you to die because of your treatment,” said board member John Weiss.

Board member Don Phillips said the rules aim “to make inappropriate treatments become appropriate treatments.”

The regulations now go the Legislative Council. Board attorney Kevin O’Dwyer said the rules could take effect next month if the council approves them.

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