Governor Jim Justice’s bill to combat the opioid epidemic in West Virginia received the state Senate’s final stamp of approval by a vote of 33-0. The bill aims to curb the number of pain pills doctors can prescribe.
The proposed legislation limits initial prescriptions for opioid-based painkillers to a seven-day supply for short-term pain.
“This bill is a pretty comprehensive piece, and an earnest effort to work on a terrible crisis that’s ravaging our state,” said Senator Charles Trump, R-Morgan. “This is a bipartisan effort to make a serious change that we hope will be part of our overall war against the opioid crisis.”
The governor’s legislation also requires the WV Board of Pharmacy to identify doctors and other healthcare professionals that prescribe excessive quantities of pain pills, and refer their names to medical licensing boards for possible discipline. The pharmacy board would send reports of “unusual or abnormal” prescribing practices to the licensing boards four times a year.
Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said the bill could penalize honest doctors and increase the workload of primary care physicians. He said it might stop them from prescribing pain medications altogether. “It’s a necessary pill to swallow,” he said.
In 2016, 881 people fatally overdosed on drugs in West Virginia. That was the highest drug overdose death rate of any state.
State lawmakers predict the new prescription restriction will help stop creating new addicts and keep extra pills from entering the illegal drug market.
The West Virginia Pharmacists Association will publish the entire bill if it passes the House of Delegates and forward it to member/pharmacists.