Last November, the New Hampshire Board of Medicine adopted emergency rules for prescribing opioid prescriptions after Governor Hassan urged the Board to institute tougher standards in order to prevent opioid abuse. The regulations require doctors to provide patients with information concerning addiction and overdose; risks of keeping unused medication; ways to dispose of unused medication; and, the dangers of operating heavy machinery or motor vehicles while using opioids. The rules also require doctors to use appropriate treatment standards to treat chronic pain, which include: informing the patient about risks of opioids, including addiction; conducting a proper patient evaluation and risk assessment to predict the patient’s likelihood of misusing or abusing opioids; creation of a treatment plan and written pain agreement; review and follow-up appointments; toxicology screenings; and, appropriate consultations.
According to the emergency rules, “deviation from these treatment standards shall constitute unprofessional conduct.”
The Board of Nursing followed suit in December, adopting emergency rules on opioid prescribing. The new rules largely parallel the rules adopted by the Board of Medicine. This is important because many of the highest-volume prescribers of opioids are nurse practitioners who work in pain clinics, not doctors.
While many believe these rules may help prevent opioid abuse, at least one provider who regularly prescribes opioids disagrees. In 2013, Nurse Practitioner Kelly Doherty wrote more prescriptions for oxycodone HCL for New Hampshire Medicare patients than anyone else in New Hampshire. She disputes that prescription opioids have contributed to the heroin epidemic, stating: “I believe the heroin epidemic is due to the government’s lack of initiative in mental health treatment. It does not start with me prescribing drugs to people who need it.”
Despite Nurse Doherty’s beliefs, these rules represent an acknowledgment that New Hampshire providers must do their part to prevent drug addiction in the first instance. While it is unclear what impact, if any, the new rules will have on New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic, the rules are clearly a positive move to combating New Hampshire’s opioid crisis.
New Hampshire providers have a role to play in preventing opioid addiction. For those who currently suffer from an opioid addiction, treatment is available. For a list of possible providers, see http://nhtreatment.org/.
If you or a loved one have been harmed by mismanagement of prescription opioids or other medications, please contact one of our experienced attorneys today for a free consultation.