CHEYENNE – State lawmakers will see a bill in 2019 that could set limits on how doctors and other medical providers prescribe opioid-based medications.

Members of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee voted last week in Casper to sponsor a bill that would set a hard limit on the number of opioid pills a first-time patient could receive. The committee also hit pause on a bill that included requiring medical providers to check the state’s prescription drug database before prescribing schedule II, III, IV or V drugs.

Opioids include illegal drugs such as heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available by prescription such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine.

If the opioid prescription limits bill passes as written, doctors would only be able to prescribe up to a 14-day supply for a 14-day period. The limit would only apply to patients who hadn’t received an opioid prescription in the past 45 days. The proposed language would allow for possible exceptions to the cap in cases of chronic pain, cancer treatment, palliative care or other clinically appropriate exceptions.

Committee co-chairman Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, said he expected the limit bill would have a good chance of passing in next year’s general session.

“I think (that bill) will generate some discussions,” Barlow said. “I think it will have some traction and be able to move forward.”

Barlow said the opioid prescription limit bill could help prevent patients from becoming addicted. The goal was to keep excess medication from being abused or diverted to unauthorized uses.

Groups like the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention have called for changes in how opioids are prescribed, especially putting a limit on the number of pills first given to patients. Before the issue of opioid addiction came to national attention, doctors would prescribe a surplus of pills to deal with something as simple as a wisdom tooth extraction. The excess pills have been pointed to as a contributing factor to the rise in opioid addiction.

The Labor Committee decided to hold off on a vote on a controlled substances education and administration bill. Instead, they moved it to the committee’s Nov. 19-20 meeting in Cheyenne.

That bill would require medical providers and pharmacists to receive ongoing education about opioids. It also would require doctors and other medical professionals to check the state’s prescription drug database before prescribing opioid medication.

Barlow said the committee decided to hold off on any decision related to that bill until it had a chance for more public input. During last Friday’s hearing, Barlow said the committee heard from doctors and others representing small practices about the burden the requirements would place on their small staffs to check the database.

“In some of these practices, they’ve known their patients personally. Sometimes they’ve known the families for generations,” Barlow said. “The committee felt like we needed more time to winnow down our options (for the bill).”

The committee did lay back a bill that dealt with legal ramifications for opioid abuse when it involved a child. Barlow said the committee felt that the bill should be considered by the Judiciary Commit-tee and didn’t fall under the purview of the Labor Committee.

All of the bills considered last Friday were recommended to the committee by the Joint Opioid Addiction Task Force. The temporary task force was formed during this year’s legislative session, and the mandate is set to end in October 2019.

For more news from the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, go online to https://www.wyomingnews.com/.

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