How Legislators are Working to Combat the Nation's Opioid Epidemic


According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 6 out of every 10 drug overdose deaths in America involve opioids and 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. With such staggering statistics, it’s no wonder legislators have “curbing opioid abuse” at the top of their to-do lists.  In the first half of 2016, 39 states, and the federal government, considered bills aimed at making a dent in the nation's opioid epidemic.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP)

While there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution to opioid abuse, some approaches did make their way into bills all over the country. One of the biggest trends for addressing opioid abuse is the expansion of a state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), the system that records when a controlled substance is prescribed and dispensed.  Expansion captured many forms, from requiring prescribers to check the PDMP before writing a prescription, to increasing how frequently a pharmacy reports dispensing a controlled substance. Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Vermont all signed such legislation into law this year. 

Initial Fill-Limits

Several states also considered initial fill-limits, meaning that a patient receiving an opioid prescription for the first time will only receive a limited amount. Once the initial fill is done, a patient would have to go back to their doctor to receive more.  Other big trends included developing prescribing guidelines or rules and suggestions for doctors on when and how to prescribe opioids, increasing access to drugs that may help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and some states even looked at ways to increase access and coverage of substance abuse programs.

The opioid epidemic remains front and center across the country and there is no easy fix, but states have worked hard throughout 2016 to give doctors, pharmacists, regulators, and patients, the tools necessary to help turn the tide.


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