nj1015.com - NJ lawmaker targeting doctors who prescribe too many painkillers


By David Matthau

With New Jersey’s prescription painkiller and heroin epidemic continuing to get worse, one Garden State lawmaker is moving forward with a plan to force doctors and dentists to be more responsible when they’re writing prescriptions for opioid drugs.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, will formally introduce a measure this week that would restrict medical expense insurance coverage for opioid drugs unless the prescriber documents:

• A thorough medical history, a physical exam and a medical decision-making plan with special attention to the cause of pain.

• That the prescriber has complied with most recent CDC guidelines of prescribing opioids for chronic pain.

• That non-opioid medication is inadequate

• An explanation has been given to the patient about the risk and benefits of prescribed medications.

• Except in the case of patients receiving palliative or hospice care, the prescribed dosage of opioid drug is not more than 90 morphine milligram equivalents per day

“The point is to restrict doctors from over-prescribing these opioid drugs,” he said

Lesniak pointed out not too long ago he had a root canal and his dentist gave him a 30-day supply of an opioid painkiller.

“I didn’t need a 30 day supply. Actually, I’ve had root canals in the past; I didn’t need any supply. So the doctors are contributing to this problem,” he said. “We need to make sure doctors only give limited amounts of opioids as necessary for acute pain, and follow the guidelines to make sure the patient understands and knows that these drugs are addictive, heavily addictive.”

Lesniak stressed if doctors and dentist violate the proposed guidelines, “there can be penalties and there wouldn’t be insurance coverage, nor should there be. We have to have firmer rules because this is an epidemic, young people particularly are dying.”

He stressed the bottom line here is to make sure “these painkillers, these addictive painkillers just aren’t prescribed willy-nilly without thought, without advice to the patient.”

Lesniak said the legislation, which is co-sponsored by state Sen. Nellie Pou, D-Passaic, will be introduced on Thursday in the Commerce Committee and he expects it to move quickly through the Senate.

He said opioids should only be prescribed in small, carefully controlled doses, but unfortunately “there are just too many doctors who are doing the exact opposite, and are just writing prescriptions as a matter of course. Too often they’re taking the shortcut by just writing unlimited amounts of opioids for their patients.”

The provisions of the bill do not apply to a prescription for opioid drugs that prescribes less than a four day supply of the opioid drug.