DOVER, Del. (AP/WBOC)- Delaware officials are urging doctors to follow more stringent regulations when they prescribe pain medications.
Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock announced three proposed changes Wednesday that are aimed at reducing the frequency with which painkillers are prescribed and subsequently abused.
Under the proposed guidelines, doctors would be able to provide an initial supply of opioid medication for no longer than seven days for patients recovering from an injury or procedure.
Those with chronic pain would need to sign a treatment agreement and take drug screenings twice a year. In conjunction with this, practitioners would be required to consider and discuss alternative treatment options with a patient, and conduct a risk assessment to identify patients that are or may be at risk for dependence or misuse of a prescribed opioid.
The guidelines would affect primary care doctors, dentists, podiatrists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Veterinarians, pharmacists or hospitals wouldn't be subject to the limits.
“These new regulations recognize the undeniable link between prolonged prescriptions for opioids and the addictions that can result from their overuse," Bullock said in a statement. "The regulations are also an acknowledgement that opioids are a gateway to the abuse of illegal drugs, especially heroin. Many individuals struggling with opioid addiction have indicated that it started with an injury or medical procedure and a prescription for opioids such as Percocet or Vicodin. The proposed regulations lay out requirements for the safe prescribing for both instances of acute pain as well as chronic, long-term conditions involving pain treatment."
The proposed changes are available for public comment until May 31.
More than 200 people suffered fatal overdoses in Delaware last year.