Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has proposed a plan to curb opioid addiction in the state. He said that he will use a series of executive actions to reduce prescriptions of the powerful painkillers. His plan will only apply to patients covered by the state’s workers compensation program.
Wolf said in a written statement that the actions will improve medical care for injured workers.
“Pennsylvania’s injured workers must have access to reliable, safe, and effective prescription drugs that assist their recovery and ability to re-enter the workforce while keeping in mind the need to safely and appropriately prescribe all medications, including and especially opioids,” he wrote.
“My administration is taking these steps to limit overprescribing of opioids to injured workers, limit expensive opioid-based medications, and combat the potential for opioid abuse without rationing health care for millions of workers who could be injured on the job or severely limiting treatment options for workers and their doctors beyond opioids. My priority will always be to ensure injured workers, including our police, firefighters, and laborers, have access to quality healthcare.”
Wolf’s plan will address the opioid crisis in several ways. He will form a task force to create guidelines for prescribing opioids safely. The plan also seeks to raise awareness of the opioid crisis among workers’ compensation judges and healthcare workers. The state will also monitor prescriptions more closely, as well as form a system to detect overprescribing.
The governor also wants the legislature to pass two bills now pending in committee to attack the opioid problem. Senate Bill (SB) 655 would make the administration guidelines for prescriptions law. And SB 472 would limit opioid prescriptions to seven days, except in extraordinary cases.
No Action Yet On GOP Plan
Pennsylvania’s legislature also has a plan to limit the use of opioids in the state. Republican majorities currently control both the House and the Senate.
Earlier this month, lawmakers passed SB 936. The bill is now waiting for a signature or veto from Gov. Wolf. Today is the deadline for him to act.
SB 936 contains a formulary which would control the type, dosage, and length of time for opioid prescriptions. J.J. Abbott, a spokesperson for the governor, told reporters that Wolf is concerned that the law would lead to reduced care for patients.
“I think the natural effect of the formulary is that it will allow for more money to flow back to insurers at the expense of treatments for workers,” Wolf Spokesman JJ Abbott said.
But Republicans say that the formulary approach is sound.
“It’s an evidence-based formulary developed by a panel of doctors,” said House Republican spokesperson Steve Miskin. “It’s peer-reviewed, so it’s not like it’s just done.”
Miskin also noted that Wolf’s plan to regulate prescriptions via executive action usurps the power of the legislative branch.
“He’s trying to not create a law, and that is wrong,” he said. “Especially after the legislature acted.”
Whichever approach they take, it’s clear that the governor and legislature need to act soon. Nationwide, Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of opioid prescriptions for patients in a workers compensation program.
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