Four bills approved, more being proposed
By State Sen. Luther Olsen
Last session, the Wisconsin State Legislature approved four bills to combat the problem of heroin use in the state.
One bill increased the security of prescription drugs by requiring individuals to show proper identification when picking up certain narcotic or opiate prescription drugs unless the pharmacist knows the person picking up the prescription.
The next bill allowed all EMTs to carry naloxone, a drug used to counter the effects of a heroin or opiate overdose. The third bill was a Good Samaritan bill that granted limited immunity to those who call for help when someone is suffering from an overdose.
The final bill will help encourage more communities to set up drug disposal programs.
The lead author of these bills from last session has drafted another set of bills to fight the abuse of prescription pain killers, which are often seen as gateway drugs to heroin.
The facts regarding drug overdoses are sobering: drug overdoses have doubled since 2004 and surpassed motor vehicle traffic deaths in 2008. More Wisconsin residents died in 2013 from drug poisoning than from suicide, breast cancer, colon cancer, firearms, influenza or HIV.
The first bill would create a registry of pain management clinics in the state. These clinics treat people suffering from chronic pain with the use of controlled substances, specifically opioid pain killers. These drugs can be effective when used properly but are also highly addictive.
Reports from other states indicate that there are pain management clinics that “sell” narcotic pain killers to patients who do not need them, increasing the supply of these drugs on the street and leading to misuse and addiction.
Under the bill, each clinic would be required to have a medical director and doctors would be required to review patient records in the prescription drug monitoring database (PDMD) to make sure the patient is not getting pain medication from more than one doctor.
The second bill allows the Department of Health Services to collect data from methadone clinics around the state. Methadone is a drug that works on opioid receptors in the brain to stop craving and withdrawal symptoms. Research has shown that treatment with this medication is an effective way to combat substance abuse, but since the methadone clinics in Wisconsin are privately-owned, there is little data about their success rates.
By collecting data from these clinics, health care professionals will be able to see where there are successes or challenges.
Sixteen states, including Wisconsin, have a prescription drug monitoring program that requires pharmacists to record when they dispense controlled substances, like opioid pain killers. The third bill that is being introduced requires pharmacists to record this information within 24 hours of dispensing this type of drug, rather than the currently allowed seven days. The bill also requires physicians to check a patient’s record when initially prescribing certain controlled substances. Finally, the bill allows district attorneys and law enforcement agencies to ask for PDMP records as part of an investigation.
The final proposal would require law enforcement officers update the PDMP when they discover misuse or overdose of scheduled prescription drugs. The PDMP would then be required to notify the patient’s physician. This will allow a physician to see when a person is misusing a drug or having a negative reaction to a drug.
These bills are not magic bullets to solve the problem of opioid or heroin addiction. They make practical improvements to the way the state gathers information about narcotic pain killers and potential treatments and gets the information out to health care providers so they can help their patients.