Drug overdoses killed eight people a day in Ohio last year –
By Patricia Beech –
Ohio Governor John Kasich unveiled new rules for doctors on Thursday, March 30 that place strict limits on how long a patient can be prescribed opiate-based painkillers.
According to the new rules, doctors and other health-care providers treating patients with acute pain can prescribe no more than seven days of opiates for adults and five days for minors. Additionally, a morphine equivalent dose prescribed for acute pain cannot exceed an average of 30 doses per day.
Previously, Ohio doctors were allowed to write pain prescriptions for up to 90 days.
The new limits do not apply to opiates prescribed for cancer, palliative care, end-of-life hospice care, or medication-assisted treatment for addiction.
Because Ohio is suffering a high rate of heroin addiction linked to previous opioid abuse, Kasich is warning doctors throughout the state they will lose their medical license if they fail to comply with the new limitations.
“You’re going to have to abide by these rules,” said the Ohio governor. “Health care providers can prescribe opiates in excess of the new limits only if they provide a specific reason in the patient’s medical record. By reducing the availability of unused prescription opiates, fewer Ohioans will be presented with opportunities to misuse these highly addictive medications.”
Governor Kasich said the limitations, partnered with a law-enforcement crackdown, will eventually reverse Ohio’s distinction of ranking first in the nation in overdose deaths.
“The sun is going to come out on the problem of drug abuse,” Kasich said. “Too many families are being torn apart by drugs and that is why we have been so proactive in exploring new ways to prevent Ohioans from becoming addicted to prescription opioids.”
The epidemic is also posing risks to kids who are exposed to the dangers of drug abuse by family members. Ohio officials say opiate abuse has fueled a 19 percent spike in the number of kids removed from parental custody to foster care since 2010.
Ohio is currently investing nearly $1 billion each year to battle drug abuse and addiction.
According to an Associated Press report: “Accidental drug overdoses killed 3,050 people in Ohio last year, an average of eight per day, as deaths blamed on the powerful painkiller fentanyl again rose sharply and pushed the total overdose fatalities to a record high.
Over one-third of those deaths (1,155) were fentanyl-related, which more than doubled from the previous year and increased from just 75 in 2012.
Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says is 25 to 50 time more powerful than heroin and 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
Authorities targeting prescription painkiller abuse say the problem has changed quickly in recent years as users turned to heroin, fentanyl and even stronger drugs.
“We’re paying the price right now for a lot of the neglect that happened in the past,” said Kasich. “Building upon prescribing guidelines we established for emergency departments and chronic pain, these new protocols for treating short-term pain will strengthen our efforts to fight abuse and ultimately save lives.”