Delaware Revamps Opioid Prescribing Laws

Under the new regulations, opioid prescriptions in Delaware may not exceed 1-week.

Delaware recently increased regulations regarding opioid prescribing in an effort to further combat the opioid epidemic. These new laws will help providers and pharmacists monitor and limit the use of opioids.

The requirements expand procedures related to prescribing opioids for both short-term and long-term pain management, according to a press release from the state. Some aspects of the new legislation are to be determined at the discretion of the prescriber, while others depend entirely on the situation.

Medical professionals, public health experts, the Attorney General, and various stakeholders all took part in crafting these new regulations over an 18-month period. The new requirements will take effect on April 1, 2017, and will be published in the Delaware Register of Regulations, according to the press release.

The goals of the new regulations are to control the amount of opioids prescribed to patients to prevent unnecessary treatment, and to monitor those who have been prescribed the drugs in an effort to prevent opioid overdoses.

Under the new laws, an initial opioid prescription can be no longer than 1-week. If an extended treatment period is deemed necessary, patients must undergo a physical exam and disclose past history, while physicians must check the state’s prescription drug monitoring database, according to the release.

For minors, no prescriptions may exceed 1 week, but additional requirements are needed if the prescriber feels a longer supply is necessary.

For patients who require long-term treatment, prescribers have to check the database at least every 6 months, or more regularly if an issue is suspected. These patients also have to undergo fluid drug screening every 6 months.

Long-term opioid prescriptions now require a signed treatment agreement from the patient. This agreement includes a promise from the patient not to misuse alcohol or other substances that are not prescribed.

Additionally, the agreement lets the patient know that the treatment may be re-evaluated or discontinued due to a violation of the terms, or if the treatment is not effective, according to the state. Patients also sign off that they will not seek prescriptions for pain drugs from other practitioners.

These new regulations were implemented by Delaware to prevent opioid misuse and deaths associated with overdoses. It also requires that patients take greater responsibility for their actions, including a better understanding of the risks associated with opioid treatment.

“These regulations can save lives by helping to curb the abuse of opiates in our state. Delaware’s prescription rate for certain opiates is among the highest in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and we know what many users of heroin tell us: Their drug abuse can be traced back to a time when they were prescribed opiates for an injury or some other valid medical need,” said Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, whose department regulates and licenses prescribers of controlled substances in Delaware. “With these regulations, we are supporting the efforts of those seeking to break that cycle — including doctors, pharmacists, public health workers and our law enforcement agencies.”