State sees drop in pain prescriptions after passage of law

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The number of prescriptions written in Delaware for opioid pain medications has dropped since the enactment of new prescribing regulations by the Department of State earlier this year.

Statistics from the Division of Professional Regulation, which licenses controlled substance prescribers, show a 12-percent drop in opioid prescriptions statewide compared to the first quarter of 2017. The number of Delaware patients being treated with opioid medications has also declined by eight percent over the same time period, the division reports.

“Limiting the availability of prescribed opioids that end up being diverted, sold and illegally abused is an important part of our fight to stem the tide of opioid addiction in Delaware,” said Gov. John Carney. “Opioid prescription rates remain too high in Delaware, but this is an issue we will continue to address in a comprehensive way.”

The new regulations, which took effect April 1, were designed to help prescribers more closely monitor and control the use of opioids by their patients.

“A significant reduction in the number of pills being prescribed means a better chance that fewer end up on the street,” said Secretary of State Jeff Bullock. “Just as important, fewer people being prescribed opioids is a sign that medical professionals in Delaware may be changing their prescribing practices and relying less heavily on highly addictive opioids when better alternatives exist. Seven months into our new regulatory framework for opioids, we are seeing the results we had hoped for.”

Key elements of the new regulations are aimed at controlling the amount of opioids given to new patients and aggressively monitoring their treatment. First-time opioid prescriptions may not exceed a one week supply under the new rules.

“Although these are early results, they are encouraging,” said Attorney General Matt Denn. “The Secretary of State and the Division of Professional Regulation deserve a lot of credit for putting these new regulations into effect – they placed Delaware in the top tier of states nationally with respect to requiring the responsible prescription of opioids.”

The state’s Addiction Action Committee, also created by the General Assembly this year, is actively considering two other initiatives relating to the prescription of opioid drugs: possible legislation requiring health insurance coverage of alternatives to opioids for pain management, and possible state responses to the co-prescription of opioids and benzodiazapenes.

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