We have written in the past about the opioid epidemic, and in particular the fact that Arizona is among the states with the highest rate of prescription drug overdose and prescription drug abuse in the nation. That article was written in 2016, and Arizona has finally gotten down to the business of attempting to do something about the problem. This month Governor Ducey signed into law a sweeping reform law regulating opioid prescriptions.

Here are the highlights of the new law:

  • For new patients, the law limits prescriptions in most cases to a five-day supply.
  • There are increased regulations applicable to pain clinics.
  • Beginning next year, doctors will be required to utilize electronic prescriptions in an effort to reduce theft and forgery of prescriptions.
  • Dosage limits are applicable in some cases.
  • Pharmacists are required to check the prescription drug database to prevent doctor shopping.
  • The dosage limits do not apply to cancer patients, trauma patients, hospice treatment and similar situations.

The law also deals with treatment for substance abuse, expands access to Naloxone (which can reverse the effects of an overdose), and seeks to hold manufacturers accountable for fraudulent marketing of opioids by insuring prison sentences that may not be suspended.

The new law was passed on a bipartisan basis, almost unheard of in Arizona. But there are some who have questioned how the restrictions will affect those who are suffering from severe pain but whose conditions don’t fit neatly into the exceptions carved out in the new law. Critics contend that no one should be unable to access medication due to the state intruding too far into the doctor-patient relationship.

Overall, the law seems to be a step in the right direction. It’s nothing new, of course. It’s basically a rehashing of laws passed in some other states, notably New Jersey. About a year ago, the Garden State adopted what was then the toughest opioid law in the country (including items such as the 5-day limit on initial prescriptions). It also sued a fentanyl manufacturer for fraud in marketing its product.

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