Legislation aims to combat state’s opioid epidemic

Legislation introduced by Gov. Bill Walker to combat the state’s growing drug epidemic includes several proposed charges in the way opioids would be prescribed and monitored.

House Bill 159 and the companion Senate Bill 79 require the state’s prescription drug database to be updated daily instead of weekly, and allow for disciplinary action against pharmacists who do not review the database as required under current law.

It would also require medical providers to take continuing education in pain management and opioid addition, limit the initial prescription for opioids to no more than a seven-day supply for outpatient use, and require doctors to discuss the risk of opioid abuse with parents before prescribing to a minor.

According to Michael Haugen, executive director of the Alaska State Medical Association, that organization remains neutral on the legislation at this time, but is keeping a close eye on its progress. Decisions on required continuing education courses physicians must take are normally the prerogative of specialty groups within the medical profession, such as those specializing in pain management, pediatrics and anesthesiology, Haugen said.

The legislation would further required the Board of Veterinary Examiners to educate veterinarians on signs of opioid abuse in pet owners, and to participate in a prescription database.

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/PDF/30/Bills/HB0159A.PDF for House Bill 159 and

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/PDF/30/Bills/SB0079A.PDF for Senate Bill 79.

Walker issued a disaster declaration on Feb. 14 to allow the life-saving drug naloxone to be distributed statewide for use in drug overdose incidents. Then on Feb. 16, the governor issued an administrative order establishing a plan of action directing state agencies to prioritize resources to combat the opioid epidemic and apply for federal grants to fund prevention, treatment and enforcement.