Just two days after Christmas, the Lt. Governor signed SB 0274, a bill to limit opioid based pain prescriptions for people in “acute pain”.
President Obama at the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit made similar comments on opioids.
It’s important to recognize that today we are seeing more people killed because of opioid overdose than traffic accidents.
Sec. 7333b. (1) Beginning July 1, 2018, if a prescriber is treating a patient for acute pain, the prescriber shall not prescribe the patient more than a 7-day supply of an opioid within a 7-day period.
(2) As used in this section, “acute pain” means pain that is the normal, predicted physiological response to a noxious chemical or a thermal or mechanical stimulus and is typically associated with invasive procedures, trauma, and disease and usually lasts for a limited amount of time.
Lansing — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed a 10-bill package Wednesday aimed at reducing Michigan’s rapidly growing opioid addiction by requiring doctors and the state to better track and control the flow of opioid-based prescription drugs.
Calley signed six bills that will collectively require doctors to use a new online prescription tracking state database, set up a legitimate doctor-patient relationship and limit the number of pills dispensed in a given seven-day period. It comes as the number of heroin and prescription opioid overdose deaths in Michigan has doubled during the past five years.
Health and addiction experts have long urged the medical industry to adopt new prescription opioid standards. Many heroin addicts start out using legal painkillers first, and even people who take such drugs as directed by a doctor can still wind up addicted.
Calley and other public officials have called for legislation to stop “pill mills,” or unscrupulous doctors who authorize too many prescription painkillers and end up feeding addiction.
“It’s now claiming more lives than car accidents each year,” Calley said at a Wednesday press conference.
In 2015, 1,275 people died from heroin and opioid-related overdoses — 884 were caused by prescription opioids and another 391 from heroin, according to the most recent data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.
By comparison, 963 people died in car accidents in 2015, according to the Michigan State Police.
The 2015 heroin and prescription opioid overdose deaths represented a nearly 100 percent increase over the 639 deaths in 2010 — 195 from heroin overdoses and another 444 from prescription opioid overdoses.
“This will make a huge difference. It’s about earlier detection and prevention,” Calley said about the legislation.
“We’ve done a lot of great work to try and save lives after a person becomes addicted,” said the lieutenant governor, who chairs Gov. Rick Snyder’s task force on opioids. “What we’re doing now is the work to prevent the addiction from happening in the first place and to detect it earlier in the process and get ahead of this epidemic.”
In overall Michigan drug poisonings, 1,981 people died in 2015, according to the state, a 12 percent rise from the 1,745 fatalities from the year before.
What legislation does
One of the bills Calley signed Wednesday was by Sen. Tanya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and requires that doctors review a patient’s history on a new online database called MAPS before prescribing opioids. The measure was recommended by Snyder’s task force.
Calley said Schuitmaker’s bill is “very central to making progress in the fight against the addiction epidemic that has swept across this state and across the nation.”
He also praised a bill from state Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, for expanding treatment options for Medicaid recipients in need of opioid addiction help. Lawmakers need to keep working to expand treatment, “but it seems like there’s never enough,” Calley said.
“At the end of the day, the most important aspect for whether a person recovers, the first thing is wanting to get better. And there’s so much more awareness today; there’s so much more acceptance among people to seek treatment than what we saw a few years ago. That makes me hopeful that we can turn this around.”
A related bill from Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, requires the state to record opioid prescriptions in MAPS in an effort to keep tabs on doctors who prescribe too much. It’s also meant to help doctors know when patients are hopping from office to office to get too many pills.
According to the report, every state except Missouri has a prescription drug tracking system for pills. MAPS came online in 2002 but experienced a major upgrade in April that lawmakers and health professionals hailed as a cornerstone of the state’s opioid epidemic battle.
The legislation Calley signed Wednesday also would stop a prescriber other than veterinarians from distributing opioids without first looking into a patient’s prescription history on MAPS.
Other bills would require a “bona fide” patient-doctor relationship before a doctor could prescribe opioids and limit the supply of opioids.
Legislation signed last year by Snyder allotted $2.5 million for a new cloud-based database and did not require doctors to check the system before prescribing addictive painkillers to patients.
Although some in the industry say the system could help fight the state’s opioid-abuse epidemic, the Michigan State Medical Society has voiced strong concerns that requiring use of the new system would be time consuming and add more work for doctors.
As of Tuesday, 24,639 licensed doctors and pharmacists have voluntarily signed up to use the state’s drug tracking database and more than 4,000 nurses or office managers on behalf of licensed medical professionals, according to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan CEO Daniel Loepp in a Wednesday statement called the package “a strong step forward that strengthens Michigan’s efforts to reduce addiction and abuse.”
According to Poison Control, adults aged 45–54 had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in 2015.
Data from the National Vital Statistics System, Mortality
- The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2015 (16.3 per 100,000) was more than 2.5 times the rate in 1999 (6.1).
- Drug overdose death rates increased for all age groups, with the greatest percentage increase among adults aged 55–64 (from 4.2 per 100,000 in 1999 to 21.8 in 2015). In 2015, adults aged 45–54 had the highest rate (30.0).
- In 2015, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths among non-Hispanic white persons (21.1 per 100,000) was nearly 3.5 times the rate in 1999 (6.2).
- The four states with the highest age-adjusted drug overdose death rates in 2015 were West Virginia (41.5), New Hampshire (34.3), Kentucky (29.9), and Ohio (29.9).
- In 2015, the percentage of drug overdose deaths involving heroin (25%) was triple the percentage in 2010 (8%).
Deaths from drug overdose have been identified as a significant public health burden in the United States in recent years (1–4). This report uses data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) to highlight recent trends in drug overdose deaths, describing demographic and geographic patterns as well as the types of drugs involved.
With the current nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse, dependence, and fatalities, clinicians are being asked by federal agencies and professional societies to control their prescribing of narcotic medications for pain. Federal guidelines emphasize tapering, discontinuing, and limiting initiation of these drugs except in provision of end-of-life care. Reducing reliance on opioids, however, is a massive task. According to one estimate, more than 650 000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed each day in the United States. Unless the nation develops an increased tolerance to chronic pain, reduction in opioid prescribing leaves a vacuum that will be filled with other therapies.
Enter cannabis. As of August 2016, the District of Columbia and 25 states have legalized cannabis for medical use. Recreational use of cannabis has been legalized in 4 of these states and Washington, DC, and like initiatives are pending in other states. The mandated transition to limit use of opioids, paired with the current climate around liberalizing cannabis, may lead to patients’ formal and informal substitution of cannabis for opioids. Observational studies have found that state legalization of cannabis is associated with a decrease in opioid addiction and opioid-related overdose deaths
The Institute of Medicine in a 1999 report, the same report that the people of Michigan described when creating the MMMA, declared that cannabinoids from the marijuana plant, could be useful for patients “who have developed tolerance to opioids”.
All of the currently available analgesic (pain-relieving) drugs have limited efficacy for some types of pain. Some are limited by dose-related side effects and some by the development of tolerance or dependence. A cannabinoid, or other analgesic, could potentially be useful under any of the following circumstances:
• There is a medical condition for which it is more effective than any currently available medication.
• It has a broad clinical spectrum of efficacy and a unique side effect profile.
• It has synergistic interactions with other analgesics.
• It exhibits “side effects” that are considered useful in some clinical situations.
• Its efficacy is enhanced in patients who have developed tolerance to opioids.
President Trump’s ONDCP task force on the opioid prescriptions crisis has recommended calling for a national emergency.
The first and most urgent recommendation of this Commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act. With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.
Due to the interim report, President Donald J. Trump has instructed his Administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic. 8-10-2017
Conclusions and Relevance Medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates.”
Using data on all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013, we found that the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly, once a medical marijuana law was implemented.
The CDC has declared opioid prescription overdoses an epidemic.
Drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States. The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
Reduce the amount of Schedule II opioids (drugs like oxycodone, methadone and fentanyl) that can be made and sold in the U.S.
President Obama and President Trump have instructed the FDA and DEA to limit opioid based prescription painkillers.
April 19, 2016 CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain—United States, 2016
Deborah Dowell, MD, MPH. Tamara M. Haegerich, PhD. Roger Chou, MD.
JAMA. 2016;315(15):1624-1645. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.1464
Fewer Canadian veterans have sought prescription opioids and tranquillizers in recent years, while at the same time prescriptions for medical marijuana have skyrocketed.
It is not clear whether the two are related, but the trend echoes what researchers have found in U.S. states with medical-cannabis laws.
New data provided to The Globe and Mail by Veterans Affairs Canada show that over the past four years, the number of veterans prescribed benzodiazepines – with brands such as Xanax, Ativan and Valium – had decreased nearly 30 per cent. Opioid prescriptions also shrank almost 17 per cent during that same period.
Of course medical marijuana can be used as a painkiller in the states with working medical marijuana laws. What about the people who don’t know about medical marijuana?
Unfortunately, the limits, burdens and tightening of the rules for doctors and pharmacists to prescribe and dispense pain medication have caused patients’ quality of life to drop. Due to these new rules, patients have been dropped by physicians, denied prescriptions at pharmacies and have been forced to turn to heroin just to attain pain relief. Thousands of people have signed this petition to have some of these rules rescinded so they can get their medications back, to no avail.
The reports detailing denials of pain medications were posted to the change.org petition. The reports are heartbreaking. These patients need a replacement therapy after they have been denied prescription opioid analgesics by their physicians and pharmacists.
David Jasko Hackensack, NJ Apr 27, 2017
“Tired of being treated as a “drug seeker,” when pain medications are requested. Since I have been in chronic pain, 9 of 10 doctors have refused pain medication, leaving me unable to walk 90% of the time.“
Sharron Rishling Las Vegas, NV Apr 27, 2017
“My daughter had had this terrible pain disease CRPS (Chronic Reflex Pain Syndrome) which is disabilitating. She is totally disabled and they are not letting her have her pain medication.“
nathan luse Wyoming, MI May 14, 2017
“I have chronic lower back pain, and chronic pain in my feet, pain meds got taken away, and there is no surgery to fix me. shots have zero effect, had a specialist notarized this. only thing that works and gets me out of bed is medication. Been cut-off since december.”
Susan Pare Otisville, MI Feb 1, 2017
“I have been in severe, chronic pain of one form or another since I was two years old. I will be 64+ later this year. There has been almost no time in that period where I have been free of pain. I recall having to beg my doctor to prescribe more than 15 days of Vicodin at a time and that had to last me SIX MONTHS. Granted this was 20 years ago, but suddenly it is like living that time all over again. Surely there must be a happy medium between me and the neighborhood dealer.”
Ariel G Baraga, MI Jan 28, 2017
Signing this because I deal with pain everyday that doctors do not help because they think I’m a drug seeking addict.
Deborah Palomarios Onaway, MI Jan 2, 2017
I have severe pain. I have had 4 back surgeries. The last two I was only given 10 days of pain meds then no more. Its barbaric!
Scott Behler Ann Arbor, MI Dec 18, 2016
Dealing with chronic pain for the last 19 years. I am a restaurant manager by career, and often am walking, standing, for 12 hours a day. Had the ability to manage my pain, and be successful in my position until about a year ago, when my doctor of many years cut me way back, and every time I see him now, directs me to see a different orthopedic or pain management clinic, who continually suggest additional surgeries (I’ve already had 7 of them, one more painful and longer recovery time than the next), or more injections ( I’ve had multiple spinal, steroid, cortisone, synvisk, etc., that have worked for very short periods). I understand the issues with recreational usage problems, but let the people who are in legitimate pain and need them to survive get them! Sad when some of us chronic pain patients start thinking about finding street drugs such as heroin just to be able to live a somewhat “normal” life. I’ve also heard of chronic pain patients that just give up and commit suicide. This is something that my faith would forever restrict me from doing, but I can understand giving up on life because what kind of life is it when you are continually suffering?
Marijuana can prevent the intensity and amount of migraines. Marijuana is also useful as an adjunct therapy to opioid prescriptions because it allows the patient to use fewer opioids to achieve the same pain relief.
Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids
Cannabis reduces opioid overdose mortality.
- In states with medicinal cannabis laws, opioid overdoses drop by an average of 25%. This effect gets bigger the longer the law has been in place. For instance, there is a 33% drop in mortality in California, where compassionate use has been in place since 1996 (1).
- This finding was replicated by Columbia’s school of public health, using a completely different analysis strategy (2).
Cannabis reduces opioid consumption.
- Cannabis is opioid-sparing in chronic pain patients. When patients are given access to cannabis, they drop their opioid use by roughly 50%. This finding has been replicated several times from Ann Arbor to Jerusalem (3, 4).
- This opioid sparing effect is accompanied by an enhancement of cognitive function once patients begin cannabis therapy: this effect is most likely due to the fact that patients reduce their opioid use (5).
- Cannabis use is associated with a reduction in not only opioid consumption, but also many other drugs including benzodiazepines, which also have a high incidence of fatal overdose. In states with medicinal cannabis laws, the number of prescriptions for analgesic and anxiolytic drugs (among others) are substantially reduced (6). Medicare and Medicaid prescription costs are substantially lower in states with cannabis laws (7).
Cannabis can prevent dose escalation and the development of opioid tolerance.
- Cannabinoids and opioids have acute analgesic synergy. When opioids and cannabinoids are coadministered, they produce greater than additive analgesia (8). This suggests that analgesic dose of opioids is substantially lower for patients using cannabis therapy.
- In chronic pain patients on opioid therapy, cannabis does not affect pharmacokinetics of opioids, yet it still enhances analgesia. This finding further supports a synergistic mechanism of action (9).
- Pre-clinical models indicate that cannabinoids attenuate the development of opioid tolerance (10, 11).
Cannabis, alone or in combination with opioids, could be a viable first-line analgesic.
- The CDC has updated its recommendations in the spring of 2016, stating that most cases of chronicpain should be treated with non-opioids (12).
- The National Academies of Science and Medicine recently conducted an exhaustive review of 10,000+ human studies published since 1999, definitively concluding that cannabis itself (not a specific cannabinoid or cannabis-derived molecule) is safe and effective for the treatment of chronic pain (13).
- When 3,000 chronic pain patients were surveyed, they overwhelmingly preferred cannabis as an opioid alternative (14).
- 97% "strongly agreed/agreed" that they could decrease their opioid use when using cannabis
- 92% "strongly agreed/agreed" that they prefer cannabis to treat their medical condition
- 81% "strongly agreed/ agreed that cannabis by itself was more effective than taking opioids
Cannabis may be a viable tool in medication-assisted relapse prevention
- • CBD is non-intoxicating, and is the 2nd most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis. CBD alleviates the anxiety that leads to drug craving. In human pilot studies, CBD administration is sufficient to prevent heroin craving for at least 7 days (15).
- • Cannabis users are more likely to adhere to naltrexone maintenance for opioid dependence (16).
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