Opioid prescriptions drop in VA after emergency regulations

'The opioid epidemic is the worst drug crisis I've seen in my over 25 years with the DEA,' says...
'The opioid epidemic is the worst drug crisis I've seen in my over 25 years with the DEA,' says an investigator. (Source: NBC12)
Updated: Feb. 27, 2018 at 3:17 PM EST
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(WWBT) - With drug overdoses soaring, Virginia is one of 28 states that actually limits how long a doctor can prescribe certain painkillers.

Thirty-one-year-old J.W. Taylor's 5 year old daughter was his heart, but his head could not escape addiction.

"He was my heart, he was my first born," said his mother Dani Taylor.

He died from heroin laced with fentanyl, but his family says his addiction started seven years ago with prescription pills.

"It's not only the person that has an accidental overdose, but it's the family members. It's the friends. It can impact an entire community," said Ralph Orr.

Three people a day die in Virginia from an opioid overdose, either prescription or illegal.

About a year ago, the crisis moved Virginia to create emergency regulations to control the amount, dosage and length of time that physicians can prescribe opioids.

Physicians are now required to consider other pain treatments before prescribing painkillers.

"The overarching rule is to write the lowest effective dose for the least amount of days necessary," said Dr. William Harp.

Providers must also do a thorough physical examination. If a patient has certain risk factors or a history of abuse they must also be given Naloxone - an overdose-reversal drug.

"I think Virginia's been forward looking with this for a long time," said Harp, the executive director of the Board of Medicine, the body that licenses and regulates doctors of all fields in the Commonwealth.

Harp says the rules are to help doctors "to be more thoughtful and cautious in the prescribing of these drugs. Thereby, reducing the amount of drugs out there."

Orr runs the prescription monitoring program in Virginia, an online site that tracks prescriptions for narcotics. He says Virginia's doctors prescribed fewer powerful painkillers last year than in 2016.

"(That's) a 45 percent decrease in the number of doses, and that goes along with a decrease in prescriptions at the same time," said Orr. "So, that's pretty significant. That means a lot less pills are getting into the drug cabinets, the medicine cabinets and therefore are not available on the streets."

They're also working to strike a fair balance here, especially for those patients who are not abusing and really do have pain medication needs.

Also, the new rules have not had any impact on the number of overdose deaths.

The state Health Department predicts a 10 percent jump in opioid-related deaths by this July.

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