INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana is joining a growing number of states adopting tighter controls on how doctors are prescribing some of the most commonly used narcotic painkillers, in an effort to curb what public health officials call an epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
Late last week, the Indiana Medical Licensing Board adopted a set of emergency rules that call for drug testing of pain-medication patients, more screening and monitoring of patients by doctors to detect drug addiction and abuse, and a mandatory “treatment agreement” between doctors and patients that’s focused on improving health and not just alleviating pain.
The new rules – which serve as the basis for permanent rules to come -- were adopted the same week that the federal Food and Drug Administration recommended tougher restrictions for the most widely abused prescription drugs that contain the narcotic hydrocodone, such a Vicodin, Lortab and their generic equivalents. The FDA restrictions, if passed, would reduce the number of refills patients could get before going back to see their doctor and would require patients to take a prescription to a pharmacy, rather than have their doctor call it in.
“These are big first steps, but we still have a long way to go controlling access to some very dangerous drugs,” said Republican state Sen. Ron Grooms, a retired Jeffersonville pharmacist who sponsored the legislation that lead to the new state rules.
Grooms and members of a statewide drug abuse prevention task force that helped craft the new restrictions expect pushback from patients and doctors who’ve grown accustomed to relatively easy access to the commonly prescribed medications used to treat pain from arthritis, injuries, dental extractions and other problems.
But it’s grief they’re willing to take, given the explosion of people dependent on painkillers and the rise in overdose deaths.
“We knew if we didn’t get ahold of this problem now, it was going to be one of those things that we’d never get ahold of,” said Dr. Deborah McMahan, the Allen County Health Commissioner and chair of a statewide task force of medical and legal experts who helped craft the new prescribing rules.