Sebastian County officials weigh in on opioid regulations

State Rep. Justin Boyd says if the rule is approved, it will likely go into effect in May.

By Max Bryan
Times Record

Though they met resistance prior to a vote, recently passed medical regulations are described by Sebastian County officials as a safeguard against opioid over-prescribing.

The Arkansas Medical Board approved regulations that add prescription requirements for doctors who are prescribing opioid painkillers on Thursday. The board’s 12-1 ruling limits opioid prescriptions for acute pain and requires doctors to justify prescriptions that exceed more than 50 morphine milligram equivalents.

If approved by the Arkansas Legislative Council, the rule will likely go into effect in May, District 77 state Rep. Justin Boyd, R-Fort Smith, said.

“Much of (prescribing) is appropriate, but some of it is not, and what this rule is supposed to do is to turn the inappropriate use into appropriate use,” Dr. Don Phillips of Mercy Clinic, a Medical Board member, said of the ruling.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arkansas averaged 114.6 prescription painkillers per 100 people in 2016. The national average that year was 66.5 painkillers per 100 people.

At 169 painkillers per 100 people, Sebastian County had the third-highest painkiller prescribing rate in the state that year, according to Centers. The county was also near the top of the state for many other opioid-related issues in the latest available years for data.

“There has been an inappropriate use of scripts that were written by physicians,” Phillips said. “This is education more than anything.”

The 50 morphine milligram-equivalent cap for opioid prescribing was based on 2016 guidelines issued by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is equivalent to 10 hydrocodone/acetaminophen 5/300 pills. Read more.

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