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6/28/2017 General Assembly OKs Archambault, Diaz legislation that requires prescribers to discuss opioid risks
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston) and Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) that would require health care professionals to discuss the dangers of opioid addiction before prescribing the medication. The measure now moves to the governor’s office.

“We’re battling a lethal epidemic that is killing more people a year than motor vehicle crashes,” said Senator Archambault. “More than 52,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2015 — and 63 percent of those deaths involved an opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The legislation (2017-S 0493A, 2017-H 6307) would require that a health care professional authorized to issue prescriptions, prior to issuing an initial prescription for an opioid drug, discuss with the patient who is 18 years of age or older or the patient’s parent or guardian if the patient is under 18, specifically the risks of developing a dependence or addiction on the prescription opioid drug and potential of overdose or death, the adverse risks of concurrent use of alcohol or other psychoactive medications.

Opioids are a class of drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. Long-term use can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when stopped. Opioids are classified as narcotics and include illegal heroin as well as legal prescription pain relievers such as morphine, codeine, methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and hydromorphone.

“This legislation will go a long way toward easing the epidemic of opioid addiction,” said Representative Diaz. “Many people become addicted to opioids that were legitimately prescribed. That, coupled with the expense, has made this a major health crisis. The total annual costs associated with prescription opioid abuse was estimated at $55 billion in a study published in Pain Medicine in 2011.”

The bill is the latest in a series of measures passed by the General Assembly to fight the opioid crisis. In recent years, naloxone (an overdose reversal drug) has been made more available, even in schools. The state operates a prescription drug monitoring program, an electronic database that tracks prescriptions of controlled substances, including opioids. Laws granting immunity to those who distribute naloxone have also been passed.

“This is a difficult trend to stay on top of,” says Senator Archambault. “But one of the ways we can do it is through education. Much of the opioid crisis starts with prescriptions. If doctors take the time to discuss the very real threat of dependence, it could go a long way toward prevention.”

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903