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Bill on opioid prescription mandates likely to find support

Legislation implementing opioid prescribing mandates has a good chance of becoming law, according to one legislator.

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, chief sponsor of the bill, said the time is right for such legislation given the overall opioid problem in communities.

“I think there is a lot of support for it,” he said.

Senate Bill 655 would make mandatory the voluntary guidelines developed by Gov. Wolf’s Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices Task Force on the proper and safe prescribing of opioid-related pain medications.

The bill was unanimously supported this week by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Yaw noted that there’s little question that opioids have been overly prescribed to patients.

The opioid problem, he added, is only growing worse.

“Eighty-percent of people addicted to heroin start with prescription drugs,” he said.

Yaw said physicians he’s talked to back some type of strong action on the issue.

“The amount of opioids prescribed and sold in the U.S. quadrupled since 1999, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report, according to studies,” Yaw said. “While prescription opioids can be an appropriate part of pain management, the voluntary guidelines established by the Governor’s Task Force aim to improve the safety of prescribing and reduce the harms associated with opioids, including opioid use disorder and overdose.

“I do not believe that mandatory implementation of these guidelines impose excessive barriers that will interfere with treatment. They put safeguards in place to prevent some unintended consequences. Unsafe prescribing must stop.”

Yaw noted that 13 people in the state die every day of a drug overdose.

“We need to get real serious about this,” he said.

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