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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: February 28, 2017 10:47 AM
From: Senator John P. Sabatina, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Five-Day Opioid Prescription Limitation
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that will combat the opioid epidemic affecting our Commonwealth. We must act now to address the risk of deadly opioid addiction, as a result of prescribed painkillers following a medical procedure.

The Department of Health and Human Services, in Maine, reported that 3 out of every 4 people who become addicted to opioids get hooked on prescription opioid pills first. By limiting the number of days a patient can be prescribed an opioid painkiller, our Commonwealth can address the issue of over-prescribing this addictive medication for acute pain.

Recently passed legislation in New Jersey, signed by Gov. Christie, has a provision setting a five-day limit on initial prescriptions for pain-killing opioids. This legislation will follow that model, by setting a similar limit of five-days for an initial prescription of a controlled substance containing an opioid. The legislation also adds requirements for all lawfully authorized prescribers to follow certain reporting methods and to discuss the risks of addiction and overdose associated with opioid medication. In addition, exceptions would exist for instances where prescribers deem an opioid prescription necessary, for more than five-days, in order to stabilize a patient’s acute medical condition or if the prescription is for pain associated with hospice or palliative care; cancer; or management of chronic pain not associated with cancer.

This legislation sets limitations within the recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain (March 2016), which advise that clinicians prescribe patients the lowest effective dose of opioid painkillers, with three days or less often sufficient; and more than seven days rarely necessary. The five-day limitation sets a boundary well within the CDC guidelines, while also providing exceptions and necessary parameters for extended prescriptions.

I hope that you will join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as SB562