In an effort to combat opioid addiction and abuse, U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation in April that would limit the initial supply of opioids for acute pain to 7 days. Several states have passed laws similar to the McCain/Gillibrand bill.

These are steps in the right direction and may help some people from getting addicted. However, these laws are inadequate. People with chronic pain or longer term conditions are an even bigger part of the problem, and should be subject to the one-week-at-a-time requirement.

Patients with chronic pain typically receive a one-month supply and come home from the pharmacy with a big bottle full of pain pills. This makes it very easy to become addicted. I am personally acquainted with several people who have become addicted in this manner and ended up with a serious problem. I don’t know anyone who became addicted after a short-term course of this medication. Getting a smaller supply at shorter intervals will help a person overcome a “mistake” and break out of this cycle.

Having a large bottle full of pills also makes it easy to sell the pills, or “loan” some pills to another person who gets theirs on a different date and has run out. For every person who buys these medications on the street, there is someone who has a prescription and is selling them. Getting just a week’s supply at a time will make this less convenient and less lucrative.

Insurance companies and pharmacies may complain that weekly prescriptions increase their costs and overhead. If they are serious about doing their part to control this epidemic, they should be willing to fall in line. CVS Health has announced that they will phase in one-week prescriptions starting in February 2018, however there is a provision allowing “health plan clients” (employers and health plans) to opt out of this. This should not be optional.

Also, anyone who is under supervision such as probation, and has a prescription for opioid painkillers, should be required to bring their bottle with them to their regular meeting with their supervisor, to monitor usage. Perhaps these people should have more frequent meetings.

If people are serious about doing something about this epidemic, they should be willing to put up with a little inconvenience and even a little expense to combat this problem. Fred Johnson


Submitted by Virtual Newsroom