JBE signs opioid bill 061217

Gov. John Bel Edwards signs on Monday, June 12, 2017, legislation to combat the state's opioid addiction crisis.

Advocate Photo by Rebekah Allen

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law on Monday a slate of bills to combat the state's opioid addiction crisis, to limit prescriptions and to prevent the practice of "doctor shopping." 

Louisiana has the sixth highest opioid pain reliever-prescribing rate in the nation, averaging 122 prescriptions per 100 people. From 2014 to 2015, opioid overdoses increased by 12 percent in the state, according to Louisiana Department of Health. 

"I've seen the opioid epidemic become one of the worst public health scourges in America," said Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee. "It has lead to deaths in every parish in this state." 

Edwards signed three bills into law that were passed by the Louisiana Legislature. House Bill 192, by New Orleans Democratic Rep. Helena Moreno, implements a seven-day limit on first-time prescriptions of opioids for acute pain. 

"It prevents you from going to the doctor for a minor procedure and getting a 30-day supply of Percocet," Moreno said. Though her bill does not apply to patients with cancer, chronic pain or those receiving hospice care. It also gives doctors the ability to override the limit when medically necessary, with a notation in the patient's chart. 

Another key bill was Senate Bill 55 by Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks. That bill strengthens the state's Prescription Monitoring Program, which is a database for doctors and pharmacists. The bill will require prescribers to check the system before prescribing an opioid to a patient and check it every 90 days, to reduce doctor shopping by patients who seek out multiple prescriptions. 

House Bill 490, by Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, creates a 13-member advisory council on heroin and opioid prevention and education to develop policy recommendations to combat opioid abuse. 

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.