Here are bills to watch that would change how opioid painkillers are prescribed

On March 2, our friends at the Portland Press Heraldthe Bangor Daily News and other media outlets published articles about the heroin battle facing the nation and the aggressive stand Maine is seeking to take with new rules for prescribing opioids.

(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

The bill the LePage administration introduced on Wednesday, March 2, would create new restrictions on prescribing opioids to control pain. These limitations would be among the strictest prescribing standards in the nation.

Here are some of the proposed changes:

  • limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to three days and chronic pain to 15 days;
  • cap prescriptions at 100 morphine milligram equivalents per day;
  • require doctors to check the Prescription Monitoring Program before prescribing opioids to see if patients have received similar prescriptions elsewhere; and
  • mandate training for doctors before they can prescribe opioids.

About 75 percent of new heroin users first become addicted to prescription opioids, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. This bill would address one part of the problem — providers and physicians who over-prescribe.

As the Press Herald reported:

Maine is in the midst of a heroin crisis, and in recent years has experienced a surge in overdose deaths and the number of people seeking treatment for opioid addiction. About 350,000 Mainers were prescribed a total of 80 million opioid pills in 2014, according to the latest figures available from the Maine DHHS.

Meanwhile, the Maine Medical Association has prepared a competing bill that would require health professional licensing boards to issue prescribing rules.

These are important proposals to watch. Stay tuned.