TULSA - Hoping to curb the opioid epidemic impacting Oklahoma, a new law goes into effect Friday which limits the amount of opioids a doctor can prescribe.
The main focus of the Senate Bill 1446 is to try and find alternative solutions instead of prescribing opioids and to look at old treatment plans of people who suffer from chronic pain to make sure they’re not experiencing dependence problems.
With this new law, doctors are now only allowed to initially prescribe a weeks worth of opioid drugs at the lowest dose.
Before they prescribe another seven days, they have to meet with their patient to make sure they’re not at risk for abuse or addiction.
If more is needed, further pain management options need to be discussed.
“The initial legislation was designed to try to avoid that initial huge exposure to the opioids so that legislation was designed to put a, a very expected evolution of how much you could give somebody on an initial prescription and within the first 30-days ultimately,” Dr. Kevin Taubman, Past President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said.
Additionally, more safeguards are in place for patients who suffer from chronic pain like Tommy Stergas.
They now have to enter into a pain management agreement with their doctor to explain the risks of opioids.
Doctors can review the treatment plan at a minimum of every three months.
Stergas has rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia and began suffering from chronic pain at the age of 2.
He said he could not endure the pain and still work without taking opioids.
He believes these new laws are keeping people like him from getting the help they need.
"By keepin' the patients that need the medications from getting treated, they're committing suicide because they can't stand the pain or have no quality of life," said Stergas.
There are exemptions from the bill.
It includes patients who are receiving active treatment of cancer, in hospice, receiving palliative care, or residents in a long-term care facility.
The law also mandates that doctors receive an extra hour of continuing education in pain management or in opioid abuse and addiction before renewing their license.
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