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Senate Bill Would Require Doctor Training to Fight Prescription Drug Abuse


A bill co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) and Jay Rockefeller (WV) would require doctors to receive training for prescribing opiate-based narcotics, the Times Union reports.

The training would cover clinical standards on safe management of pain, help doctors better identify patients who are vulnerable to addiction, and provide information on alternatives to opiate narcotics for pain management, according to a news release from Sen. Schumer’s office. Under current law, the Drug Enforcement Administration does not require doctors, dentists and other authorized prescribers to undergo training in order to obtain a license to dispense opioids.

The Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 2011 also would increase sentences for robbing pharmacies of controlled substances, as well as for stealing medical products and transporting and storing them. Under the bill, the penalty for committing a prescription drug-related crime would jump from 10 years to 20 years in prison.

The bill also would provide $25 million for states to create or upgrade prescription drug monitoring systems.

In April, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy announced a new government strategy to cut the use of prescription painkillers by 15 percent in five years. The plan includes doctor training, promoting prescription databases in all states and increased focus on rooting out illegal ‘pill mill’ clinics.

10 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Rich
    Rich / July 27, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Opiate addiction is a common and predictable complication of long term opiate prescription. Until a better solution for pain control is discovered, or until accurate prediction of opiate addiction stops physicians from prescribing narcotic pain medication (without utilizing the currently acceptable practice of an in vivo human assay via a “trial of medication” to ascertain if the patient will become addicted), addiction will continue to be a problem. Unfortunately, that is state-of-the-art pain management.

    When patients become neutropenic after chemotherapy, (a predictable complication of chemotherapy), oncologists do not abandon them. They treat the neutropenia and then weight the risks and benefits of further chemotherapy. They may not prescribe further chemotherapy, but they do not “fire” their patients.

    It is troubling that physicians who prescribe opiate pain medications are actually encouraged to abandon their patients when they become addicted (“Teaching Physicians to Prescribe Responsibly”). Handing an addicted patient a list of 12 step meetings and suggesting that they find a doctor to prescribe Suboxone does not constitute treatment of addiction any more than handing a book on Infectious Diseases and a list of Infectious Disease specialists would constitute treatment of neutropenia.

  2. Avatar of Pam
    Pam / July 18, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Rather than make laws that punish the majoriety of providers who are competent and ethical; why not just deal with those who are not! And better yet, why not address the pharmaceutical company who origianlly stated that Oxycontin would be reserved for the treatment of intractible cancer pain!

  3. Joe / July 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I think requiring members of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to have medical degrees before they begin to address medical issues would be far more appropriate.

  4. ChrisKelly / July 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    You hit in right on the head, NAABT, this bill will only make it more difficult for people who need pain meds to access them. Research shows that most illicit opiate users get their supplies from “family and friends” NOT by “doctor shopping”. More education for the general public is what is needed, NOT more restrictions on doctors.

    I hope that saner heads prevail in Congress because this illthought out bill will have horrible consequences.

  5. / July 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Our fear with this legislation is exactly what has already happened with a similar law- In DATA-2000 (an amendment to the Controlled Substance Act) doctors are mandated to get a special DEA# which usually requires an 8 hour training course, in order to prescribe certain opioid medications (buprenorphine for example) for the treatment of opioid addiction. The result, with 9 years of aggressive recruitment, is less than 20,000 of the country’s 700,000 physicians currently hold the special DEA# and only about 1/3 of them are actually prescribing. This limited supply of doctors in a demand-rich environment, has allowed some doctors to choose not to accept insurance, or Medicaid, and charge higher prices than for other office visits. Since in many communities there may only be one physician with these special credentials, patients cannot simply avoid expensive doctors in favor of more reasonably priced doctors and are forced to pay higher prices. Since it is unlikely that all of the currently prescribing doctors will get the training, the supply/demand balance will be tipped in the doctor’s favor and prices are likely to rise, or worse patients who need pain control to maintain quality of life will not be able to get it.

    We are also concerned about the moral hazard of laws like this. If special training is required of some medications what does that say about other dangerous meds that training is not required for? Aren’t physicians already obligated to educate themselves about the medications they prescribe? Do laws like this enable reasoning like “well, there’s no training for this medication, it must be safe” Since by definition all prescription drugs have some danger associated with them, are we headed toward mandatory structured training for each and every medication a physician prescribes? Since that is not practical will such laws lead to doctors only prescribing a few medications creating a supply deficit and higher prices? Will patients who need several medications need to find several doctors to obtain the medication they now get from a single doctor? Education is good, but selected mandated education carries unintended consequences. The unprecedented limitations placed on buprenorphine has resulted in a limited supply which not only enables higher prices but creates a market for diversion. We’ve had a parent tell us they had bought buprenorphine off the street for their adult son while on a waiting list for legitimate treatment. We fear restricting access to pain medication which is essentially what this law will do, will foster a larger diversion market, exactly the opposite of its intention.


  6. Julian / July 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Train doctors regarding addiction and alternatives to opiates…absolutely!
    Throw addicts who steal drugs due to addiction in prison for 20 years…no way! They need detox and treatment. Rebebecca, how would you feel if your new grandbaby had to grow up without parents because they stole drugs to support their habit versus getting them treatment so they can be sober parents?

  7. Rebebecca Doane / July 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    What can we do to help? I hope this happens because my son and daughter-in- law are addicted to prescribtions pain pills and just gave birth to a baby boy who was born addicted and is ICU.fighting for his life because hes detoxing off of oxs!.There are many others in the same shape! Makes me sick!

  8. joebanana / July 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Brilliant, push the prescription drug market underground. How about requiring candidates for public office take an aptitude test, and a civil rights exam.

  9. / July 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    The training for prescribing painkillers should be combined with the training for prescribing buprenorphine for opioids addiction treatment. If doctors prescribing opioids have patients that become addicted they should have the credentials to offer the most effective treatments. Currently only 1 in 100 of the doctors actively prescribing the opioid medications people get addicted to and die from, also prescribe the treatment medication.

  10. Avatar of Penny
    Penny / July 16, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    I agree 100%! When I worked for IHS it was the candy factory for prescription drug abusers. I had patients voluntarily coming to me disclosing their addiction to pain meds and requesting assistance. At first they wouldn’t even look at this treatment option simply because they didn’t have any docs trained to handle it. Made no sense that the docs would dole out the pain meds like candy at the drop of a hat, and then not be provided training to provide tx for the inevitable addiction problem that developed.

    Likewise, Now work for VA and at least where I work, there is no tx for opiod/opiate addiction except the normal 12 step program, whose director agrees that we need this alternative tx, we see pain med abusers among those who commit suicide but we still do not begin to train docs for tx Go figure??

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