House GOP plan makes opioid database mandatory

Less than half of Iowa prescribers registered now with system

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Doctors and pharmacists would be required to register with and check an electronic state database when prescribing and issuing opioid painkillers under legislation introduced Thursday.

The move is part of a package of measures designed to address opioid addiction in Iowa, unveiled Thursday by Iowa House Republicans.

There were 180 opioid-related deaths in 2016, according to the state public health department. That’s more than triple the number of opioid-related deaths in 2005.

The epidemic is worse in other states; Iowa ranks near the bottom of the states in its rate of opioid deaths per capita.

But Iowa lawmakers have said they want to develop programs to address opioid addiction before it gets worse here.

Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, called the House GOP plan “proactive rather than reactive.”

The goals, she said, are to prevent people addicted to opioids from obtaining them from multiple doctors; reduce overprescribing; and provide support to individuals who have become addicted.

Advocates have pressed for requiring doctors and pharmacists to consult the state’s prescription monitoring program. But that requirement has received push back from some physicians and lawmakers.

More than half the states require prescribers to consult their state’s prescription monitoring programs, which are designed to identify individuals who attempt to obtain opioids from multiple sources.

Less than half of Iowa prescribers are registered to use the program.

“I think what we have seen nationally, as well as here in Iowa, (is) that physicians recognize that we certainly are facing a crisis and an issue with opioids,” said Rep. Shannon Lundgren, a Peosta Republican who helped craft the plan. She said the doctors the drafters spoke with “understand the process and why we’re doing it this way.”

The House GOP plan also would:

l Require pharmacies to report to the program within 24 hours.

l Prohibit opioid prescriptions from being filled more than six months after the date prescribed.

l Establish a good Samaritan law that provides immunity to individuals who report an overdose to emergency personnel, with exceptions for repeat offenders and drug dealers.

Rep. Mark Smith, the Democratic leader in the House, urged his fellow lawmakers to approve legislation addressing opioid addiction.

“I call on us as a Legislature to address these issues in an aggressive manner before we go home at the end of the session,” Smith said.

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