Yaw legislation will limit opioid prescribing to children; Require warning labels on opioid containers

HARRISBURG – Legislation limiting the amount of opioids that children may be prescribed will soon be introduced by state Senator Gene Yaw (R-23).  The bill addresses the increasing risk of children becoming addicted to opioids and heroin after being prescribed painkillers.

According to Sen. Yaw, the bill would limit the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to a seven-day duration unless there is a medical emergency that puts the child’s health or safety at risk.  Additionally, the legislation will require a health care professional to obtain written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian to prescribe a medical treatment containing opioids, and provide information on the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose associated with the medication.

“Throughout the two years of hearings by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, testifiers commented about how an oversupply of medications prescribed to youth for sports injuries, or a dental procedure, was the springboard to a young person’s becoming addicted to prescription opioids,” Yaw said.  “In many instances, prescriptions are written for a 30 day supply. By re-evaluating current dispensing practices, especially when it affects our children, we take another important step in our collective efforts to rein in this heroin and opioid addiction crisis in our state.”

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the prescribing rates for prescription opioids among adolescents and young adults nearly doubled from 1994 to 2007.  A more recent analysis shows that abuse of prescription drugs is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25, with 5.9 percent reporting nonmedical use in the past month (NSDUH, 2010). Among youth aged 12 to 17, 3.0 percent reported past-month nonmedical use of prescription medications.

“Drug addiction is a preventable disease and it will take a community-wide efforts to address it,” Yaw said. “Young people in particular can quickly become addicted to opioids and then turn to heroin.  This legislation will ensure that these medicines are carefully controlled to avoid overuse and the potential for addiction.”

Another bill, sponsored by Yaw, will require prescription bottles containing opioids to have a label affixed concerning the addictive nature of the drug.

“We currently label many products with health warnings.  We require content and warning labels on food and numerous everyday household items.  The labeling of a potentially addictive, and deadly, medication is one more preventive measure we can put in place.  However small, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction.”

Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff
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