Pa. Senate could vote this month on opioid-education bill

HARRISBURG — Legislation to require medical professionals who prescribe opioid drugs to receive education on the topic sailed through a Senate committee Tuesday.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society, which supports the bill, said the proposal would require doctors who are approved to prescribe controlled narcotics to complete education in pain management and in the prescribing practices of opioids.

The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee unanimously approved the bill, and a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said the Senate may vote on it this month. If it passes in the Senate, the bill then would go to the House.

Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement that he supports the legislation and would sign it into law.

“The magnitude of the addiction and overdose death epidemic in Pennsylvania is astounding, and a collaborative effort on the federal, state, and local levels is crucial,” Mr. Wolf said.

Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, the bill’s prime sponsor, said he had learned through hearings before the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative agency, that there is little training in pain management in medical schools or for doctors.

“We understand it’s a small step,” Mr. Yaw said. “But we want to educate doctors.”

Numerous other states compel their doctors to take certain hours of continuing medical education courses every two or three years, but differ on whether to mandate specific courses.

Pennsylvania’s doctors have to take 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years, but the only mandated course is a two-hour refresher in recognizing and reporting child abuse.

Kentucky demands that physicians who prescribe or dispense controlled substances take, every three years, 4.5 hours in prescribing-related continuing medical education regarding the use of the prescription drug monitoring database, pain management or addiction disorders.

In West Virginia, doctors who prescribe controlled substances must take, every two years, three hours of training in drug diversion, proper prescribing and controlled substances practice.

Tennessee requires that prescribing doctors take two hours, every two years, of continuing education in controlled substance prescribing, including the state’s guidelines on opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates and carisoprodol, plus medicine addiction.

Maryland’s Board of Physicians required that doctors get an hour of training on opioid prescribing every two years. In April,though, the state’s General Assembly nixed that requirement, effective in October, after physicians argued that they should be free to decide which refresher courses to take based on their areas of practice.

Karen Langley: or 717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley. Rich Lord contributed.

Read OVERDOSED: How doctors wrote the script for an epidemic. Email the team at, and read the OVERDOSED blog for more on the Post-Gazette’s investigation, readers’ stories, and the latest news about the drug epidemic.

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