The state agency charged with regulating medical practice and drug prescription recently unveiled rules that will help doctors and pharmacists more closely monitor and control the use of opiates by patients under their care.
The new requirements contain expanded procedures related to prescribing opiates for acute episodes as well as for chronic, long-term pain management. Some components are at the discretion of the prescribing provider while other requirements are situation-based.
Delaware ranks high in opiates dispensed by physicians and comes after three doctors received six-month suspensions regarding dispensing practices.
The result of an 18-month rulemaking process that included input from medical professionals, public health experts, the Attorney General, and other stakeholders, these regulations were published in the January issue of the Delaware Register of Regulations and will take effect on April 1.
“These regulations can save lives by helping to curb the abuse of opiates in our state. Delaware’s prescription rate for certain opiates is among the highest in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and we know what many users of heroin tell us: Their drug abuse can be traced back to a time when they were prescribed opiates for an injury or some other valid medical need,” said theSecretary of State Jeff Bullock, whose department regulates and licenses prescribers of controlled substances in Delaware. “With these regulations, we are supporting the efforts of those seeking to break that cycle – including doctors, pharmacists, public health workers and our law enforcement agencies.”
Key elements of the new regulations are aimed at controlling the amount of opiates given to new patients and aggressively monitoring their treatment. First-time opiate prescriptions may not exceed a one week supply under the new rules. If further opiate prescriptions are deemed necessary, further action is required, including a physical exam with discussion of the relevant patient history and the risks of opiates, and a check of the statewide Prescription Monitoring Program database.
Prescribers statewide will receive an overview of the new regulations and also be directed to HelpIsHereDE.com, which contains educational materials about identifying and fighting addiction, sample forms, and a link to access the Prescription Monitoring Program.