HARRISBURG – Landmark legislation aimed at curbing Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioid epidemic were unanimously approved today by the state legislature, according to Senator Gene Yaw (R-23).
Senate Bill 1202, introduced by Senator Yaw and Senator John Wozniak (D-35), requires prescribers and dispensers to obtain initial and continuing education in pain management, identification of addiction and the use of opioids as effective treatment. The legislation also requires prescribers and dispensers to check the newly created Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Database (PDMP) each time a patient is dispensed an opioid drug product or a benzodiazepine. Additionally, prescribers and dispensers will now be mandated to update the PDMP within a 24 hour period, or “by the next business day.” The current requirement is within a 72 hour period.
Senate Bill 1367, also sponsored by Senator Yaw, will now limit prescriptions designated for minors to a seven-day duration, unless there is a medical emergency that puts the child’s health or safety at risk. The bill includes exceptions for cases involving chronic pain, cancer treatment or for palliative care or hospice care. In those cases, the medical professional would be required to document the acute medical condition in the minor’s record with the prescriber and indicate the reason why a non-opioid alternative is not appropriate to address the acute medical condition.
Senate Bill 1368, sponsored by Senator Tom Killion (R-9), calls for a medical training facility to implement key opioid-related curriculum. The curriculum calls for further education in pain management; multimodal treatments for chronic pain that minimize the use of a controlled substance containing an opioid; instruction on safe methods of prescribing a controlled substance containing an opioid that follows guideline-based care; identification of patients who have been identified as at-risk for developing problems with prescription opioids; and teaching medical students how to manage substance abuse disorders as a chronic disease.
Another measure approved by the legislature today included House Bill 1699, which created the Safe Emergency Prescribing Act limiting the quantity of opioids which may be prescribed to a patient seeking treatment in a hospital emergency department or urgent care center.
“Drug addiction is a preventable disease and it will take a coordinated effort across all spectrums to address it,” Yaw said. “Each of these bills can be compared to the strands of a rope. Each strand represents one measure to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic. Alone, they might not be fully effective, but together they can strengthen the rope and our collective efforts to address this epidemic. I am grateful that the legislature recognized the need to address opioid abuse and misuse, and I am confident that the Governor will approve these important measures.”
“We applaud the efforts of Senator Yaw and the entire legislature for their leadership and dedication in addressing the opioid crisis,” Dr. Charles Cutler, MD, MACP, President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society stated. “This issue is affecting far too many Pennsylvanians. PAMED and our physician members remain committed to the well-being of our patients and will continue working to stem this crisis.”
“The opioid epidemic that has seized our commonwealth requires state government and the health care community to work in full partnership if we are to repair the staggering damage caused by widespread opioid abuse,” said Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) President and CEO Andy Carter. “The legislative package spearheaded by Sen. Yaw and supported by his colleagues in the General Assembly and the Governor reflects a steadfast commitment to bring the opioid epidemic to an end.”
Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff