New rules that set limits on the quantity of opioids that can be prescribed take effect Jan. 1, 2018. The STOP Act, supported by Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein, sets new initial prescribing limits and is part of the state’s multi-pronged effort to reduce the oversupply of prescription opioids that has contributed to increased addiction and unintentional overdose deaths.
Nearly four people die every day from opioid overdose in North Carolina. Opioid-related deaths have risen from fewer than 200 in 1999 to 1,384 in 2016.
“Smarter, safer prescribing is one tool among many that we’re deploying to combat the opioid crisis,” said Governor Cooper. “Setting initial limits on these powerful drugs can help reduce the number of people who become addicted to opioids and it can ultimately save lives.”
Beginning Monday, doctors and other providers may prescribe up to a five-day regimen of opioids for acute pain for ailments like broken bones or muscle trauma. After that, doctors and other providers may issue refills to those patients for ongoing pain. For post-surgery pain, doctors and other providers will be limited to providing their patients a one-week prescription for opioids, but may also issue refills for ongoing pain. The new limits do not affect opioid prescriptions for patients already being treated for chronic pain, or people in nursing homes or hospice care.
“The STOP Act will prevent people from becoming addicted to opioids through smarter prescribing by doctors and dentists. It will save lives by reducing the number of pills that can be prescribed for acute pain,” Attorney General Stein said. “This legislation succeeded due to a bipartisan, all-hands on deck strategy – and that is what it will take to continue to make progress on this crisis. The STOP Act is an important first step, and I look forward to putting my shoulder to the wheel with others to prevent and treat addiction while enforcing our laws against traffickers and pushers.”
The Stop Act, which stands for the Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention Act, seeks to help curb epidemic levels of opioid drug addiction and overdose in North Carolina through several key provisions. Those include strengthening oversight and supervision of opioid prescriptions, and registration and expanded use of the Controlled Substance Reporting System. The CSRS gathers controlled substance prescription data and makes this information available to prescribers and dispensers.
Governor Cooper and Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen unveiled North Carolina’s Opioid Action Plan last summer. The plan includes comprehensive strategies specific to North Carolina and was prepared in collaboration with community partners to address the complex causes and outcomes of the opioid crisis.
Since the plan was announced, the North Carolina Medical Board has adopted a safe prescribing initiative to reduce or eliminate the inappropriate prescribing of opioids. It also offers training to ensure that licensees who prescribe controlled substances, particularly opioids, do so in a manner that is safe, appropriate and consistent with current standards of care.