New Bill Would Limit Opioids Given Out In Emergency Rooms

Feb 15, 2016

New legislation could limit how many prescription opioids emergency room doctors could give out.
Credit Eric Norris / Flickr

Three Pennsylvania senators will soon introduce legislation to limit the quantity of opioid products dispensed in emergency rooms to no more than a seven-day supply.

Senator Camera Bartolotta, a republican representing parts of Beaver, Greene and Washington counties, said the bill is in response to the growing number of emergency room treatments for heroin and opioid painkiller overdoses in the state.

This past summer, there were 25 overdoses and three deaths in a 48-hour period in Washington County. Bartolotta said testimonies gathered from recent General Assembly public hearings on the heroin and opioid epidemic, showed that about 80 percent of those heroin addicts traced their addiction to prescription opioids.

She said the bill is meant to both prevent people from becoming addicted, and also help those addicted access treatment.  

When the prescription is limited to seven days, she said an addicted patient would have to come back to the emergency room, where their case would be on file.

“And if they keep coming back repeatedly for opioids, without exhibiting some sort of legitimate injury or ailment, that’s a red flag,” she said. “And that would necessitate emergency room personnel directing them to some kind of recovery or rehabilitation program.”

Shes said some people who become addicted try to work the system by claiming specific pain at the emergency room.

“Some of these folks don’t have insurance,” she said. “They have no intention of paying for really expensive testing that is going to be inconclusive, but still the doctor says, 'Look, you’re in pain, you say you’re in pain, here’s a prescription for a narcotic for 30 days.'”

The bill would also enforce guidelines set last year by the Pennsylvania medical Society, the Department of Health and the Department of Drug and Alcohol programs, to identify individuals abusing or addicted to prescription drugs when they are admitted to an emergency room.