COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — New limits on prescribing painkillers announced Thursday by Ohio Gov. John Kasich are part of the state’s continuing effort to fight a worsening drug addiction epidemic.
The Republican governor, joined by lawmakers and officials with Ohio health licensing boards, outlined the new restrictions that include barring doctors from prescribing more than seven days of narcotic pain pills for adults or more than five days for minors.
Officials say the new prescribing limits apply to acute pain patients and could reduce the number of addictive pills dispensed in Ohio by 109 million annually.
Kasich said his administration’s approach has been at times slower than many would have liked because they took the time to work cooperatively with Ohio’s medical community. That, in turn, has provided access to better information on the problem and made the latest round of progress possible, he said.
“By working this thing over time, we’ve gotten in the position of where we can take a look at the prescribing practices, which are reasonable, and we find where there were outliers,” he said. “So we were then in a position now to move as quickly as we can, and as firmly as we can, to crank down even more.”
The governor and state medical leaders last year announced guidelines meant to reduce painkiller prescriptions for short-term pain.
Health care providers can prescribe opiates above the new limits to patients experiencing acute pain, but only if they provide a specific reason in a patient’s medical record. The limits don’t apply to cancer, hospice or addiction patients.
The new rules also require doctors to include a diagnosis or procedure code on every prescription for a controlled substance. The code will be entered into Ohio’s prescription monitoring program.
Ohio authorities are trying to slow an epidemic that last year killed a record 3,050 Ohioans. Prescription opiates often are the gateway to heroin, and 74 percent of those who died of a drug overdose in 2015 had a previous prescription for a controlled substance, the state said Thursday.
Ohio is investing nearly $1 billion a year to fight drug abuse and addiction and knows that shutting down the prescription avenue to addiction is “an essential prevention strategy,” according to the state.
The new rules come in the wake of other recent efforts in the fight against drug addiction.
Republican lawmakers on Wednesday announced legislation that also would put limits on prescribing painkillers. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a $3.5 million program last week that’s intended to help the growing number of children taken into state custody because of their parents’ addiction.