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Doctors voice concern over NJ opioid law limiting initial prescriptions to 5-day supply

Doctors do not seem to be happy with a new stringent opioid law to be implemented in New Jersey next week, saying it would be harsh on patients needing opioids for their pain. The New Jersey law would be stricter than the national guidelines for prescribing opioids. It will limit initial prescriptions to a five-day supply, as opposed to the national laws that limit prescriptions to a seven-day supply.

Though the new law limits the initial prescription to a five-day period, it allows doctors to renew it for an additional 25 days if patients remain in pain. For this, the doctors need to consult the patients about any request for an extension and see whether the request is bona fide.

It is not that the doctors are downplaying or not acknowledging the overdose deaths in New Jersey and across the country; it’s just that they are wary of the implications of the tougher norms laid down by the state. The new guideline would render it difficult for patients who are actually writhing in pain and need painkillers. The doctors want that while trying to curb the rampant opioid misuse, the new law should not make the whole process wobble and skid off the road. Strict laws could be a whiplash on those patients who genuinely need painkillers.

The festering opioid epidemic in the country clamor for an urgent fix, however, measures should not be so inordinate that they fail the very purpose. Several doctors feel that the state has enacted the laws in a haste, without actually considering the ground realities.

Another pain area is that the doctors are skeptical of any financial benefits for the extra time they would have to spend while consulting patients for an extension of pain medicines. On the other hand, the state authorities had pressed the panic button, saying there is an emergency in the state, as well as the country, and there is no time to waste. The doctors’ fraternity, however, wants a middle path, where regulations should go hand-in-hand with providing treatment to those who are in real pain and require opioids for relief.

However, for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a key member of President Donald Trump’s task force on opioid addiction, combating opioid epidemic is elemental to his administration. The state has even sued as many as 31 doctors for violation last year, criminally prosecuting some of them.

It will now become mandatory for prescribers to register for the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP), which keeps a tab on drug prescriptions, opioid history of a patient, and brings pharmacies under its ambit, among others. The state officials have declared that there will be close surveillance for any compliance issues by all stakeholders.

One thing that this new law would ensure is that it would sabotage “doctor shopping” by patients, and indiscriminate prescribing of opioids by some physicians. Any such activity would attract criminal charges and subsequent retribution by the law. Much to the dismay of some doctors, the officials vie for even stronger laws to overturn the opioid epidemic in the state.

Dealing with substance abuse

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