New Law Mandates Guidelines for Prescribing and Dispensing Opioids

On May 21 Colorado became the latest state to sign into law guidelines for the prescribing and dispensing opioids. The new law, which is effective immediately, puts a limit on initial opioid prescriptions and requires physicians to screen patients on the state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database upon the first refill.

The aim of the new law is to reduce the risk of nonclinical use, misuse or abuse of opioid medication.

According to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, in 2012, over 25 million adults in the United States reported experiencing pain on a daily basis. That same year, over 259 million prescriptions for opioids were written. In 2013, the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids in Colorado and across the United States evolved into a public health epidemic leading to drug addiction, overdose deaths and increased costs to society.

"As health professionals and care providers we have a distinct responsibility to both help patients manage pain and improve function, while also working with them to prevent addiction, overdose or death," said Dr. Sharon Grundy, director of primary care at the Telluride Regional Medical Center.

“In that regard, we’ve long taken special care when prescribing opioids,” said Dr. Grundy. This new law does change how we prescribe.

According to Dr. Grundy, patients currently prescribed long-term narcotics will continue to meet with their provider for follow-up appointments so providers can review medication regimens and ensure opioids are appropriate for the symptoms, as well as assess risk of misuse and medication dependence.

For patients seen for new acute injuries and opioid medication is designated as the appropriate treatment, the patient will be assessed for risk of misuse and reviewed for recent controlled substance prescriptions through the The Colorado Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Additionally the prescription will be limited to seven days. Refills will require an office visit.

For all patients, when considering opioid prescriptions, providers will continue to look at alternative or integrative non-opioid treatments.