- Associated Press - Monday, June 12, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Obtaining prescriptions for highly addictive opioid drugs in Louisiana will soon be more difficult under bills signed into law Monday by Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is hoping to turn the state into a leader in battling the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Edwards signed three bills that had breezed through the Legislature during the recently concluded regular session. All three had been part of the Democratic governor’s agenda.

“There’s hope for anyone at risk of falling into addiction as well as those who are already struggling,” said Edwards, whose state has the nation’s sixth-highest opioid prescription rate. “We hear you and we’re acting.”

The measures include one that will require physicians to consult a statewide prescription monitoring system before prescribing opioid drugs to patients, some of whom may be “doctor-shopping.” The monitoring program already exists, but doctors had not previously been mandated to use it.

“Doctors need to think before they wield the pen,” said Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the former acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, who supported the proposals.

Another bill, sponsored by New Orleans Rep. Helena Moreno will limit first-time prescriptions for acute pain to seven days, down from 30. The law does not apply to chronic conditions.

Edwards also signed a bill sponsored by Rep. Walt Leger of New Orleans to establish a task force that will study how to prevent opioid abuse.

Federal data shows there were 861 fatal drug overdoses in Louisiana in 2015, a 12.4 percent increase from the previous year.

Moreno’s and Leger’s bills go into effect Aug. 1. The prescription monitoring bill, sponsored by St. Martin Parish Sen. Fred Mills will take effect Jan. 1.

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House Bills 192 and 490, Senate Bill 55: www.legis.la.gov

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