Maine enacts opioid prescription laws, including electronic prescribing and cap on daily doses

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Following New York's and Minnesota's footsteps, physicians in Maine will soon be required to electronically submit opioid prescriptions, among other precautions, to help curb opioid abuse.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage signed the bill into law Tuesday. A statement from Gov. LePage's office indicates patients who receive opioid pain medication are 40 times more likely to use heroin, and the law is intended to address opioid abuse and heroin addiction.

The new law requires opioid prescribers to participate in the Prescription Monitoring Program, a statewide database of prescription information. Prescribers will have to check the PMP prior to writing scripts for opioids or benzodiazepines that will be filled outside a licensed healthcare facility. Just 7 percent of prescribers in the state currently use the PMP, according to the statement.

The law also limits the daily strength of opioid prescriptions to a 100 morphine milligram equivalent, which is slightly higher than the 90 morphine milligram equivalent limit suggested by the CDC.

Additionally, providers can only prescribe opioids for acute pain for seven days of treatment, and 30 days for chronic pain. Providers will also be required to undergo three hours of training on opioid addiction into their continuing medical education coursework.

Elements of the new law are scheduled to go into effect in 2017.

"This is a prevention bill and it is designed to get at one of the root causes of the heroin crisis in Maine," said Christopher Pezzullo, DO, chief health officer for Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the leading clinician behind the bill. "This new law is in line with the latest clinical research, and it reflects the direction many prescribers are already heading in; it just sets new expectations to ensure prescribers are adjusting their practices to account for the tragic realities of opioid addiction."

More articles on opioids:

Study: 32% of opioid prescriptions are abused in the US
A physician perspective on the opioid crisis: Q&A with Dr. James Campbell
Mass General: Addicts take opioids on hospital campus for quick intervention in case of OD

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