CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice’s bill to address the opioid epidemic is now heading to the state House of Delegates, but has to go through two committees first.
SB 273 passed the state Senate Friday with a 33-0 vote.
The bill now heads to the House Health and Human Resources Committee. It then needs to pass the House Judiciary Committee before it reaches the House Floor.
The bill would limit the number of pain pills doctors can prescribe. Doctors would be restricted to prescribe a seven-day supply for short-term pain.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Trump (R-Morgan) said the bill has support on both sides of the aisle.
“This is a bipartisan effort to make a serious change to policy in West Virignia that we hope will be part of our overall war against the opioid crisis ravaging this state,” he said.
The governor’s bill also requires the state Board of Pharmacy to report doctors or other healthcare professionals that prescribe excessive amounts of painkillers and to refer their names to various licensing boards for possible discipline. “Abnormal” prescribing practices would be reported by the pharmacy board four times a year, according to the bill.
Doctors must counsel patients and must check a patient’s prescription history before prescribing opioids, according to the bill.
Senator Ron Stollings (D-Boone) said the bill might stop doctors from prescribing pain medication altogether.
“I worry about the physicians, who are primary care physicians just like myself, who may look at this and be very fearful and not want to continue prescribing medicine. I worry about what might happen in the rule making process,” he said. “This is a bitter bill to swallow, but it’s a necessary pill to swallow.”
Stollings voted for the bill calling it a necessary first step to stop the flow of opioids.
“It’s the biggest effort to turn the spigot off, if you would, as far as anyone else becoming addicted by a legitimate prescription,” he said.