Haslam opioid bill approved by committees after some backroom compromising

After weeks of backroom talks, Tennessee lawmakers have apparently settled on a compromise that could establish some of the toughest rules on opioid prescribing in the country, reports WPLN. Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal, after amendments, was approved by the Senate Health Committee Wednesday at what was billed as its final meeting of the year and also got the blessing of the House Health Subcommittee.

Legislators acknowledge they’re creating headaches in the process, but they say overdose deaths call for drastic action. This is the Haslam administration’s top priority for the year, and Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, has guided the legislation through negotiations with doctors and pain-patient advocates, pulling from his own experience as a licensed pharmacist.

…”We don’t need to be perceived as being resistant to find a solution to this problem,” he said. “Will this require more work? Yes, it will. Will it clog up our offices and our pharmacies? Yes, it will. But this is important.”

Haile and other supporters cite the state’s climbing rate of overdose deaths as a reason to err on the side of too much regulation.

The Tennessee Medical Association provided the most forceful pushback to the plan and has been meeting with lawmakers to recommend changes. But the result of those negotiations is in some ways more strict, not less.

Instead of limiting doctors to prescribing five days for most patients, as initially proposed, the law would now allow for just three days. But for the three-day scripts, physicians won’t be required to run a patient’s name through the state’s controlled substance monitoring database, which many complain about being a cumbersome process.

…As another concession to doctors, they would be able to prescribe up to a month’s worth of painkillers, but only after exhausting other treatment options, completing a tremendous amount of paperwork and even agreeing to a minimum fine if state regulators didn’t agree that the month-long prescription was “medically necessary.”

There are still lots of exemptions, like for people who’ve just had major surgery and anyone who has already been on opioids for more than three months. That was one of several objections listed by Sen. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald.

“We’re not even dealing with the chronic pain patients,” he said. “That’s where most of the drugs get on the street, is a chronic pain patient, and we’re exempting all of them.”

Note: The bill is SB2257, officially sponsored for the governor by Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville).


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