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Assembly Panel Advances Benson, Eustace & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Close Dangerous Opioid Prescription Loophole

An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Tim Eustace and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to close a dangerous opioid prescription loophole.

Specifically, the bill (A-4741) require practitioners to check prescription monitoring information before issuing certain prescriptions to emergency department patients and authorize medical scribes and licensed athletic trainers to access prescription monitoring information under certain circumstances.

“We’ve made great strides to reduce the availability of opioids when appropriate to limit the potential for addiction, but there’s clearly more that needs to be done.” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This bill will close a dangerous loophole that can be exploited by someone determined to fuel an opioid addiction.”

Currently, prescribers or their authorized designees are required to check a patient’s prescription monitoring information the first time the prescriber or designee issues a prescription for a Schedule II Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS) to a new patient for acute or chronic pain, and on a quarterly basis thereafter for continuing prescriptions for a Schedule II CDS.

However, the law provides a number of exceptions to this requirement, which include prescriptions issued to patients in the emergency department of a general hospital when the quantity prescribed does not exceed a five-day supply.

This bill would eliminate this exception and would mandate a check of prescription monitoring information any time a practitioner or other person prescribes a Schedule II controlled dangerous substance for acute or chronic pain to a patient receiving care or treatment in the emergency department of a general hospital.

“One thing we’ve learned from examining this issue in depth is that people suffering from an opioid addiction will go to great lengths to feed that addiction,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We have to make sure we’re curtailing those options wherever we have the power to do so.”

“The sad reality at this point is that nearly every one of us has a loved one or acquaintance who has suffered from an opioid addiction,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We need to make sure we aren’t unwittingly abetting that addiction by allowing this loophole to continue.”

The bill was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. It would take effect thirty days after enactment.