CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Legislature could require medical professionals to take classes on how to responsibly prescribe controlled substances as part of a multi-front effort to curb opioid abuse in the state.
The Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee voted Tuesday to sponsor a bill that would require ongoing education on controlled substances for renewal of medical licenses. Those who prescribe controlled substances would have to complete three hours of education every two years before their medical license could be renewed.
The bill also would require those who prescribe Schedule 2, 3, 4 or 5 drugs to check the Wyoming Prescription Drug Monitoring Program for any prior prescriptions before writing a new prescription, and submit information about the prescription to the database.
The bill was part of a series of recommendations drafted by the Wyoming Opioid Task Force over the summer.
The Labor Committee in October approved sponsorship of one of those recommended bills that would limit initial prescriptions to patients who have not received opioids before to a 14-day supply.
Another bill that would have raised the crime of child endangerment to a felony when it came to controlled substances, much like the charges when it relates to methamphetamine, died in the Judiciary Committee earlier this month.
The Labor Committee spent Tuesday debating various inclusions in the draft legislation, especially an exemption that would not have subjected veterinarians to the same checking and reporting standards as other medical professionals. A concern about including veterinarians was the burden it would place on those who travel to farms and other remote areas to provide treatment to large animals.
“Veterinarians are a little bit different because not all of them work out of an office,” said Rep. Scott Clem, R-Gillette. “Many of them, if they’re out in a rural part of the country, might not have access to a computer. And if they’re dispensing these medications, then they’re supposed to query (the database). It puts them in a precarious position.”
Committee co-chairman Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, argued against the exclusion of veterinarians. A veterinarian himself, he said excluding his colleagues from reporting could open the door for opioid seekers to try and exploit the loophole to gain access to drugs.
Since the state has exemptions in law that allow for providers to check and submit information to the database at a later date if extenuating circumstances prevent them from doing it immediately, Barlow said it made sense to include veterinarians in the bill.
“Unlike many other practitioners, veterinarians that prescribe, they prescribe and dispense. So they actually have possession of the drugs, not just a notepad they can hand somebody, and then they go somewhere,” Barlow said. “I understand there are some logistical issues with technology and distance and everything. But I think there are other factors that make veterinarians a little more unique and a little more susceptible to making access a little more broad.”
Another concern about exempting veterinarians came from Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, who cited examples from Colorado where opioid seekers would abuse their animals in order to receive medication they couldn’t access elsewhere.
In the end, veterinarians were included in the bill.
The committee did vote to eliminate a provision that would have allowed information about prescriptions received by patients and medical prescribers to be given to the state’s Medicaid department.
While the goal of the provision was to make sure patents weren’t abusing the Medicaid system to illegally gain access to opioids, the majority of the committee felt it was an infringement on patient privacy rights. The language allowed information to be given either to the Medicaid director or the director’s designee, which many on the committee feared would open the door to outside groups getting private patient information in the name of safety.
Rep. Marti Halverson, R-Etna, said allowing the provision to go forward could open up personal information to fishing expeditions in the name of patient safety. She and others on the committee worried that the provision could be used by private insurance companies to seek personal information without just cause and was a violation of privacy.
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