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Attorney General testifies on opiate monitoring legislation

Two bills requested by Attorney General Ferguson, HB 2272 and HB 2325, had public hearings this morning during the House Health Care & Wellness Committee. AG Ferguson, alongside Senior Policy Analyst Kelly Richburg, testified in support of both bills which would limit opioid prescriptions and strengthen prescription drug monitoring.

As The Wire previously reported, HB 2272 would place restrictions on the quantity of opioids practitioners may prescribe to first time opioid users. For first time prescriptions, patients under the age of 21 could receive no more than a 3-day supply, while those over 21 could receive up to a 7-day prescription.

 “The limits in this bill are evidence based,” said Richburg. “According to the CDC, for most conditions, a three-day supply of opioids will often be sufficient. More than seven days will rarely be needed. Our state Medicaid policy also adopted a similar policy.”

She also notes that research shows that the risk of prolonged opiate use increases each additional day of a prescription after the first three days.

The bill also requires documented, informed consent so that patients are better aware of the risks involved with opioid use.

“The bill that we’re speaking about right now addresses this epidemic in two important ways. First, it limits over-prescribing of opioids which can save many from the nightmare of addiction,” said Ferguson. “Second, the bill reduces the number of unused pills in the community. This is critical.”

The other bill, HB 2322, would require all practitioners to review the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PMP) for each patient before writing an opioid prescription. By consulting the PMP, the prescriber would be able to review the patient’s controlled substance history in order to better identify anyone who may be struggling with addiction.

Right now, without a mandate, only about thirty percent of Washington providers who prescribe controlled substances have registered to use this resource.

Both pieces of legislation received support and opposition during the public hearing. Three representatives from the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) came out in opposition of both bills. In regards to mandating the use of the PMP, Nathan Schlicher, second VP of the WSMA, said that while he recognized the value of the PMP, the program itself is flawed and needs to be optimized before the legislature attempts to mandate its use.

“The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program as designed as a stand-alone feature is poorly designed and poorly implemented,” said Schlicher. “If we do mandates like this, it takes time away from patients.”

Katie Kolan of the WSMA also added,

“Simply mandating PMP integration with hospital and clinic electronic medical records may seem like the quick and obvious soundbite solution… but it does not actually build out the IT system to make the state’s prescription monitoring program integrated.”

These bills are just two of several bills introduced this session to address the opioid crisis.