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).


4 Responses to Haslam opioid bill approved by committees after some backroom compromising

  • Avatar
    Steven F. Kuhn says:

    I am a 100% disabled Veteran. I broke my back on active duty and was prescribed pain medicine so that I could do my job. I continued on pain medicine through retirement in the Navy and through over a decade of work as a civilian. After surgeries in 2005 and 2006 I was disabled. I am still in chronic pain. With a reduction in my pain medicine my blood pressure has shot up above 200/109 every day. I am on numerous blood pressure medications, and the ER & Hospital doctors tested me thoroughly and are of the opinion that my pain is causing my dangerously high blood pressure. While I agree that we should go after the people abusing this medicine, I feel as though I am being punished for something I am innocent of. If you could add scientific inquiry regarding body mass/dosage/ length of time on opioids/tolerance, etc., then you could make efforts to make this law less invasive on those of us who are struggling to live day to day with severe chronic pain after serving our country. I am tired of being ignored because I obey my doctor and our laws! Please feel free to contact me to discuss this further.


    Steven F. Kuhn

  • Avatar
    Tommy Ray McAnally says:

    Folks these back room compromises also created a letter called Veterans Preference Passover Letter and many others that people don’t even realize .Thanks Bill for approving this letter. Thanks also to Judd Matheny and Beth Harwell and John Ragan for agreeing with Bill. Folks these legislators must be voted out. By the by Harwell ain’t going to anything about opioids. Where was Harwells message about opioids six months about?

  • Avatar
    Kathy Raper says:

    I, too, fear that this is going to hurt a lot of people who struggle with crippling pain every day of their lives. I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m not sure that this is it…

  • Avatar
    A. E. says:

    My letter to Senator Norris who introduced the bill. Not that they will care.

    Dear Senator Norris,

    I live in Hamilton County, TN. I am a registered voter, an active conservative, and a career engineer. I have had 3 open back surgeries, since I was 25 years, and have been scheduled for a 4th multi-level fusion. I took opioids for about six weeks for following each surgery. There was no addiction, no help needed. I just went back to work. Now, I will be treated like an addict after surgery for taking pain medicine thanks to your bill.

    Sadly, your bill assumes if you limit access to opioids drug abusers will stop abusing drugs. On the contrary, the abusers are seeking to alter state of mind, and will find a new means to accomplish that goal. They always to. This is why the war on drugs has been such a dismal failure.

    Our state legislature is not interested in the truth of this matter. They are interested in public action whether it is effective, or not. In this case the later is true. Your bill will impact the genuinely ill people, who will be treated like addicts.

    There will continue to be drug abusers, long after your legislation punishes the elderly and people recovering from surgery that want to heal without pain return to work, and do not need the government’s intervention, or deadlines to heal.

    I am reading the strategies to limit pain medicine, and there is no way I will have my lumbar back fusion in the state of Tennessee. I am notifying my surgeon tomorrow that I will go to another state that respects pain after surgery and genuine illness of people.

    Limiting physicians to this degree is just scary, especially with arthritis disorders of the aging. You will understand as you age. It hurts.

    I also have a family member with very serious autoimmune arthritis, that sees a specialist for the progressive nature of this disease. They sometimes take opioids for autoimmune flares of inflammation.

    Are you are telling them to tough it out?

    Are you saying that their physician is wrong and they don’t need pain medicine?

    I cannot imagine having surgery with a bunch of politicians intervening in my medical care. Canceling surgery and going to another state.

    A. E.

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