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At the Capitol, a Push to Limit Opioid Prescriptions to Seven Days

Mar 21, 2016

Patients could return to a doctor and get a refill, potentially for a longer time window.

Doctors in Connecticut may soon be limited to writing a seven-day prescription for opioid-based medication. It's part of an effort to curb drug overdose deaths in the state.

The legislative push at the state Capitol comes on the heels of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which say an opioid prescription of more than seven days for acute pain following surgery or an injury is rarely needed.

Legislators want to make those recommendations law in Connecticut -- limiting first-time opioid prescriptions for adults to seven days. Those patients could then return to a doctor and get a refill, potentially for a longer time window.

For minors, the proposed law is more strict -- limiting all opioid prescriptions, including any subsequent refills, to seven days.

"If you get your wisdom teeth out, for example, sometimes you get 14 days. No longer can that happen," said Matt Ritter, co-chair of the Public Health Committee. "You will just get seven days if you are a minor."

"However, we do build in exceptions," Ritter said. "We do allow doctors based upon chronic conditions, palliative care, and their medical judgment to override that." 

The bill would also make Narcan, or naloxone, an opioid antagonist, available at pharmacies without a prescription.

Meanwhile, Terry Gerratana, co-chair of Public Health Committee, said she'll work with the Connecticut Pharmacists Association to get drop boxes for leftover pills into drug stores in the state.

"We don't have the prescription drug drop-off in pharmacies," Gerratana said. "But I am happy to say that, currently, in our state there are many, many places in our own communities, in our police departments, where people can safely discard prescription drugs." 

Representative Sean Scanlon, who worked at a prescription drug take back day in Guilford last year, said leftover pills are a big issue.

"We got 60 pounds in two hours from people," he said. "I will never forget a woman who walked in there with a box of pills ... and I said to her very innocently, 'What are these from?' She said, 'Well, this is from my son's wisdom teeth -- this is when he broke his ankle playing soccer ... and I said, 'Oh your kids are still in high school?' She said, 'No, my kids are 40. They have their own kids.' So these had been in her medicine cabinet for 20 years."

Update on Wednesday, March 23:

The Connecticut Pharmacists Association has submitted testimony opposing a proposal to establish a voluntary program for the disposal of unused medicines by pharmacies.

In a letter to members of the General Law Committee, Margherita Giuliano, pharmacist and Executive Vice President of the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, wrote the following:

We are opposed to having pharmacies be the physical collection site as it would compromise the clean environment and safety of pharmacies; and, place a financial burden on pharmacies to transport this waste to an appropriate biomedical waste treatment facility.