State to crack down on ER drugs

By Marc Kovac


Hospital emergency rooms and urgent-care centers have agreed to follow a set of state-issued guidelines when providing prescription painkillers to patients, Gov. John Kasich told an audience here.

Speaking to a packed room of county behavioral-health officials Monday, Kasich said he hopes to reach comparable agreements with pharmaceutical companies and others to stop the illegal flow of addictive pain medications into communities.

“There’s a message to those going into those emergency rooms,” the governor said. “We’re not giving this stuff willy-nilly anymore. We’re not going to allow you to get a prescription and go out and give it to your relative or give it to some kid or give it to anybody.”

He added, “This is a big, big deal in this battle in terms of trying to stop things from where they are dispensed. ... We’re making great progress in limiting the dispensing of these drugs.”

The announcement is the latest effort by Kasich and his cabinet members to crack down on the abuse and trafficking of opiates and other prescription drugs.

Since taking office, Kasich has signed into law bills regulating businesses that prescribe pain medication, installed signs at the state’s borders warning dealers of the consequences of peddling illegal drugs, and increased law enforcement and workers’ compensation efforts to target illegal drug-related activities.

The administration is stepping up efforts to stem the tide of pain medications being obtained by drug dealers and addicted residents through hospital emergency rooms.

The new guidelines announced by Kasich call for emergency-room physicians to limit certain painkiller prescriptions to three-day supplies, with patients instructed to see their primary-care doctors for additional pills.

Also, emergency rooms will contact patients’ regular doctors, check medical and prescription records and make other efforts to ensure prescriptions are not being abused.

Patients will be provided with guidelines for obtaining certain painkillers, including information noting that emergency rooms “typically do not prescribe narcotic pain medicine for chronic pain if you already received narcotic pain medication from another health-care provider or emergency or acute care facility.”

“We’re not going to allow people to go in there and get these prescriptions and to be able to sell them,” Kasich said. “This is a huge step.”

The state hospital association and other groups helped develop the guidelines and support their use.

“Handling this challenge with statewide agreement allows hospitals to present a united front, encouraging those in chronic pain to work closely with their primary-care physicians while discouraging dangerous, drug-seeking behavior that is part of the addiction epidemic Ohio is working to break,” Mike Abrams, Ohio Hospital Association president and chief executive officer, said in a released statement.

Kasich said that the emergency-room guide-lines are a first step, with hopes of extending such protocols to include drug makers, medical schools, trade groups and others. The governor also wants patients to get a second physician’s opinion in cases involving large quantities of prescription painkillers.

“We don’t want to tell doctors how to practice medicine,” Kasich said. “But the increase in the prescribing of these pills is an explosion, and it’s not acceptable.”

He later told reporters, “We’re going to have more resources dedicated to fighting or being in the business of treating drugs than any administration in the history of Ohio.”

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