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New regulations on pain medication aims to reduce opioid abuse

New regulations on pain medication aims to reduce opioid abuse (Photo: KOMO News)

The opioid crisis in Washington state will mean big changes to the way doctors prescribe narcotics here, and affected patients will notice the difference.

Right now, many doctors might write you a prescription for medication to help you deal with chronic pain if you’ve had surgery. The new regulations mean more checks so the pills aren’t abused.

Last September, surgery on Merv Rasmussen's wrist to remove a benign tumor lasted for more than two hours.

“I was prescribed 40 tablets of oxycodone, a 10-day supply," said Rasmussen, a retired pediatrician. "I took one of them."

All the leftover prescribed pills worry doctors like Hansie Wong, who's a family physician.

“It's a concern because what happens to those extra ones?” said Dr. Wong.

“The more important thing is the potential for someone to get in to those or overdose who are addicted,” Rasmussen said.

“The new bill will oversee the prescribing and monitoring of opioids,” said Dr. Alden Roberts, the Chair of the Washington State Medical Commission.

ESHB 1427 means changes to opioid prescribing and monitoring.

The new requirements that take effect next January are designed in part to reduce prescription opioid misuse. Starting next year, all doctors are required to use the prescription monitoring program.

“The new law requires that following surgery, following a broken ankle of that sort, that we have to check the prescription monitoring program database to see if someone is prescribing pain medicine also,” Dr. Roberts said. ““We’ll also reassess and look at the patient to see whether the pain medicine is actually doing what we want it to be doing.”

Many doctors agree there are too many extra opioids and extra tablets floating around. Whether the new law will fix that, they're not sure.

“Hopefully, it'll make people aware of how much they prescribe at least," Dr. Wong said. "Hopefully we can minimize and educate the people about what to do with the extra medicines they do have and how to property dispose them if they do have them."

The Washington State Department of Health has a variety of resources to help patients understand the new opioid prescribing requirements.

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