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August 4, 2016

New State Opioid Abuse Law: Compliance Implications for Providers

This summer, New York enacted a comprehensive law to combat the heroin, opioid and prescription drug abuse epidemic. The epidemic has impacted New York on a large scale, with 118,875 admissions to New York State certified treatment programs involving opiate abuse during 2014. To address this issue, the new law is intended to attack the epidemic on multiple fronts, the most significant of which is new legal requirements for health care providers. There have already been some requirements implemented, while others become effective this fall through January 1, 2017. Here are some of the major changes affecting providers:

  • Provider Education Requirements (Effective June 22, 2016) – Providers that prescribe opioids must receive 3 hours of educational training on pain management, palliative care and addiction every 3 years. This requirement is not limited to prescribing physicians, as it requires any provider that prescribes opioids, such as dentists, physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners, to fulfill this obligation.
  • Limits on the Length of Opioid Prescriptions (Effective July 22, 2016) – During an initial consultation, providers can now only prescribe opioid medications for acute pain for up to 7 days, absent an exception (e.g., chronic pain). This is a shorter timeframe than the previous rule, which permitted opioid prescriptions for acute pain for up to 30 days. In addition, any refill or new prescription requires a subsequent consultation with the health care provider. Providers that routinely treat acute pain, such as emergency department clinicians and dentists will be significantly impacted by this shorter timeframe. The law also places limits on patients’ copayments for initial and subsequent prescriptions for the same opioid medications.
  • Requirements for Pharmacists (Effective October 22, 2016) – When an individual is prescribed an opioid, pharmacists must provide educational materials on opioids, including information on the risks of addiction and local treatment services.

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