W.Va. Opioid Reduction Act implemented at Cabell Huntington Hospital

As the state continues to battle the opioid crisis directly from the source, Cabell Huntington Hospital has begun implementing the West Virginia Opioid Reduction Act which was introduced by Gov. Jim Justice in March and works to limit the amount of opioids prescribed as well as to educate the public of the risks and benefits of medication.

According to Dr. Hoyt Burdick, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Cabell Huntington Hospital, the act, which became effective June 7, is an addition to other pre-existing state laws regulating pain clinics and prescription drugs.

“The impact of the Opioid Reduction Act on the community will be to add certain limitations and restrictions on quantities and duration of controlled substances prescribed for acute pain,” Burdick said. “For patients with chronic problems requiring extended use of controlled substances there are new requirements for periodic re-evaluation of the impact of the medications and of the patient’s underlying condition.”

While the new law does not directly affect the use of controlled substances in the hospital inpatient setting, Burdick said it does have a significant impact on patients released from the emergency room or discharged from the hospital following surgery or other conditions.

The Opioid Reduction Act urges medical professionals to turn to alternative measures of treatment before prescribing opioids and limits the first prescription of an opioid to the lowest working dose, as well as a one-week supply.

Cabell Huntington Hospital was already working with its medical staff and clinical pharmacists to optimize non-opioid alternatives and to assure responsible prescribing of controlled substances,” Burdick said. “Now we are working with patients to improve awareness and education about the risks and benefits of controlled substances. We are also working with physicians to facilitate their workflow for meeting the documentation and prescribing requirements of the new law.”

The new law also affects patients with chronic conditions who receive ongoing prescriptions of opioids by implementing pain management contracts, which state each patient must use a single pharmacy and prescriber to obtain their medication.

“Patients who require extended opioids are now subject to the terms of a new model pain management contract that meets certain provisions of the law,” Burdick said. “Patients who have required ongoing treatment with opioids prior to January 1, 2018 and have a valid pain management contract are exempt from this new law.”

Burdick said both Kentucky and Ohio legislatures have passed laws similar to the West Virginia Opioid Reduction Act and have both experienced reductions in total prescriptions for controlled substances and quantities dispensed.

Although these laws continue to receive adjustments and amendments to address unexpected consequences, Burdick said it is not unlikely to expect similar drops in prescribed medication in West Virginia.

“Based on the experience in adjacent states, it is reasonable to expect similar reductions in Huntington and across the state,” Burdick said.

Burdick said the new law is the next step on the journey to address issues involving prescription drug abuse and diversion.

“As we evaluate the impact of this law on our patients and practices, we will continue the ongoing dialogue with state government working together to improve patient care and address concerns related to the opioid epidemic,” Burdick said.

Hanna Pennington can be contacted at [email protected].