The opioid epidemic inspired many regulatory and legislative changes in 2018. As publications continued to release startling statistics on the damage opioids have caused our nation, certain trends began to pop up within states across the country.
Legislators have tackled the epidemic in a variety of ways, with nearly every state in the country considering legislation to place controls and safeguards on the use of opioids. These trends are gaining ground quickly and we will no doubt hear more states introduce legislation in an effort to help win the war on opioids.
1. Opioid Safeguards: The opioid epidemic continues to gain national attention, with states declaring a public health crisis, and the federal government expanding financial grants to states to address the growing concern.
Over half the states in the country have passed bills limiting how many opioids an individual can receive in their first fill. Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Utah all have 7-day limits in place, while Kentucky and Florida have a stricter 3-day limit.
While there is no single fix to the opioid epidemic, systematic and comprehensive changes have proven successful in some states. With the epidemic still on the rise, we can expect even more opioid safeguards to be tested and put in place across the country in the coming years.
2. Electronic Prescribing: Electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, allows a prescriber to electronically send an accurate, error-free prescription directly to a pharmacy. In the last few years, several states have mandated the use of electronic prescriptions.
Currently, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, and New York require electronic prescribing of controlled substances. In the coming years, states like Arizona, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia will join them.
E-prescribing can help reduce diversion. Eliminating the number of hands touching a script reduces chances that a script is altered, lost, or filled by the wrong party. E-prescribing also helps to decrease the time lag for filling a prescription. As we prepare for another legislative session, you can expect to see even more states join that list.
3. Medical Marijuana: Medical marijuana is currently legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Supporters of medical marijuana urge the use of marijuana to deal with chronic pain, muscle stiffness, and most notably in 2018, to reduce the number of opioid deaths.
The use of medical marijuana in workers’ compensation is an area of slow development. While it’s legal in the majority of states, few insurance carriers or employers want to cover the drug because it remains illegal on the federal level. Medical marijuana also raises concerns about a company’s drug-free workplace policies and creates other concerns regarding working under the influence of a controlled substance.
While studies find medical marijuana could be a safe and effective alternative to opioids, without federal movement on the issue it’s coverage and availability for injured workers will remain dependent on individual insurers and court rulings.
Medical marijuana remains more a topic of conversation in workers’ comp than reality, however, developments in some states are worth watching as medical marijuana laws and regulations continue to be developed.
As 2018 comes to a close, we’ll continue to monitor and report on regulatory updates involving America’s opioid epidemic in the coming year.