- Associated Press - Friday, December 8, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas State Medical Board has approved draft regulations aimed at reducing opioid abuse.

The board unanimously voted in favor of the regulations Thursday. The requirements are based on guidelines issued last year by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

The federal agency said Arkansas had the second-highest opioid prescribing rate in the country last year, with more than 110 prescriptions for every 100 residents in the state. The national rate was 66.5 prescriptions per 100 residents.

Arkansas’ high poverty rates, obesity and smoking make for a “chronic pain nightmare” and “perfect storm for opioid prescribing,” said Ronald Tilley, a pain specialist and member of the Medical Board’s pain management review committee.

Opioid medications include hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine.

The new requirements would limit prescriptions for treatment of acute pain to a seven-day supply. It would also require doctors who prescribe more than 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day to explore alternative treatment plans and document “objective findings” such as lab tests to show the need for treatment.

Doctors will also have to inform patients of the risks and addictive tendencies of the drugs.

“Opioid abuse is an escalating danger in Arkansas, and we have to curtail the abuse,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who urged the board to adopt the CDC guidelines.

The fatality rate from drug overdoses in Arkansas has increased from 5.1 per 100,000 people in 2000 to 13.4 last year, according to the state Health Department in July.

The board said the rules will be submitted to lawmakers for final approval after a public hearing February.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com


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