RALEIGH A bipartisan group of lawmakers filed a bill Thursday designed to tackle N.C.’s widespread opioid abuse crisis. The Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention Act, or STOP Act, puts new reporting requirements and stricter controls on the distribution of opioid medications, usually prescribed for pain.Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but they are frequently misused. N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reports that there are four deaths a day in N.C. due to medication or drug overdose. The state has also seen a more than 800 percent increase in the use of prescription pain pills over the past five years.Reps. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt), Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), Chris Malone (R-Wake) and Craig Horn (R-Union) sponsored the bill saying that it is overdue and takes needed action toward a long road to recovery for the state’s opioid addiction. The companion bill, S.B. 175, in the Senate is sponsored by Sens. Bill Rabon (R-Bladen), Tom McInnis (R-Anson), and Jim Davis (R-Cherokee). Attorney General Josh Stein joined the members for a press conference at the N.C. General Assembly on Thursday to present the bill to the public.”I am here today to say enough is enough and it’s time to turn the tables on this scourge,” said Murphy, who is also a physician.Among other items, the measure allows physicians to issue standing orders, or prescriptions, to health centers and other groups for naloxone hydrochloride, which is approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of a drug overdose. It also required that supervising physicians consult with physician assistants who prescribe opioids, and it limits the number of pills that can be initially prescribed for pain.The bill also expands the use of the state’s Controlled Substance Reporting System (CSRS). If passed the law would now require prescribing physicians, including veterinarians, to check the CSRS for a patient’s other prescriptions before the write a new one. They must also report opioid prescriptions and the penalties for improper reporting would increase. Lawmakers said the requirement is intended to crack down on “doctor shopping” in which patients go from one doctor to another looking for more pain killers.Scott Hughes did just that after becoming addicted to painkillers following a bad accident in 2010. When Hughes lost his job in 2011, the former Vance county commissioner, paramedic and deputy sheriff turned to getting opioids on the black market and then to heroin to feed his addiction.”There are a lot of facilities that don’t check the system,” said Hughes. “Anyone who takes opioids will become dependent, but they cross that line into addiction when their tolerance is so high they have to go to multiple doctors to get enough. Sometimes people will get multiple kinds of prescriptions so they can sell them and buy the drug they need… if this reporting was mandated they could never get to that point in the first place.”The reporting collection computer system database contains every controlled substance prescription that’s filled in any pharmacy in the state. It’s accessible to pharmacists, doctors, dentists and the State Bureau of Investigation. However, pharmacists say that currently few use the system because of the sheer volume of prescriptions they fill per day doesn’t allow them the time to research each one. Under the bill, the practitioner is required to check the database before writing a prescription.The bill also requires practitioners to pay a fee toward supporting the CSRS database and appropriates $10 million for community-based opioid recovery programs.For Sen. Tom McInnis (R-Anson) it’s a personal quest to get this bill passed. He will shepherd it through the Senate if it passes the House and indicated that there is support for it.”I come with a different perspective than everyone who has spoken here this morning,” said McInnis. “This epidemic has personally affected my family. We lost a beautiful, vibrant, absolutely wonderful son to this epidemic.”The measure was filed on Thursday. The lawmakers said that they know that the road to recovery will be long in the battle with widespread opioid addiction.”This is not the end game, but a first step,” said Horn.
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