CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The House of Delegates today overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive bill to crack down on the state’s opioid epidemic.
Senate Bill 273, originally proposed by Gov. Jim Justice, would limit the initial amount of opioid drugs that can be prescribed at a time to most patients, and require a practitioner to reassess the patient before making additional prescriptions.
“The scourge of opioid addiction has wreaked havoc on our state, and this bill is an attempt to limit the supply of these drugs on our streets,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha.
The bill would limit opioid prescriptions for adults visiting an emergency room or urgent care facility to a four-day supply, three days for those visiting dentists or optometrists, and seven days for those being treated by general health care practitioners. Initial prescriptions for minors would be limited to a three-day supply.
The bill does not place dosage limits on cancer patients, long-term care facility patients, or those receiving hospice care from a licensed hospice or palliative care provider.
“This bill is the product of careful study to balance the needs of patients who have legitimate medical needs against those who have become or are at risk of becoming addicted to these powerful medications,” said House Health Committee Chairman Joe Ellington, R-Mercer. “It is a critical step forward in our attempt to eradicate the opioid crisis in our state.”
The bill would allow subsequent prescriptions if the medical provider deems it necessary and appropriate, and documents that the subsequent prescription does not pose a risk of abuse or addiction.
The bill also requires prescribers to check with the Controlled Substances Monitoring Program Database. A House amendment to the bill also requires health care practitioners to advise patients seeking help for pain of other treatment alternatives, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, osteopathic manipulation, a chronic pain management program, and chiropractic services.
“When I took my oath to become a physician, I swore to help the sick according to my best ability and judgment, but never with a view to cause injury or harm,” said Delegate Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell, a Huntington physician who has sponsored similar bills in the House. “Sadly, some in my profession have disregarded that oath and have allowed their patients to succumb to addiction in order to help drug companies turn a profit. It’s unfortunate that this bill is needed to rein in unscrupulous people in my profession, but I hope it will help us turn the tide against this horrible epidemic.”
Senate Bill 273 passed on a 97-1 vote. It now goes back to the Senate to approve House changes to the bill before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature.