Controlling the opioid epidemic: bill would limit dentist prescriptions

1 month 3 weeks 5 days ago Tuesday, April 23 2019 Apr 23, 2019 Tuesday, April 23, 2019 3:40:00 PM CDT April 23, 2019 in News
By: Alex Arger, KOMU 8 Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY - A Missouri senator described a bill to limit prescription of opioids by dentists as "another tool we have in controlling this epidemic."

Senate Bill 275 would limit prescriptions of long-acting or extended-release opioids by dentists. In other words, Sen. David Sater R-Cassville said it would limit prescriptions for patients who only need a short supply.

"There is a clear connection between the length of a patient's prescription and the likelihood they will continue to use opioids," Sater said. "That's where this bill comes in."

Dentists who believe the patient needs an opioid prescription would have to note the reason in the patient's records.

"This bill does not prevent dentists from writing prescriptions their patient needs," Sater said. "It simply adds a layer of protection for responsible prescribing."

The bill had no opponents at its hearing Tuesday. The Missouri Dental Board and Missouri Dental Association showed support for the limitation.

"With this particular proposal, the vast majority of dentists are already working within these boundaries, but you do find situations where there's an outlier that will exceed those," Brian Barnett, executive director of the Missouri Dental Board, said. "The intent with this is to curb those situations."

A Columbia dentist said he has tried to stop prescribing opioids all together because of the dangers of abuse. He said over-the-counter ibuprofen can work just as well for patients.

Michael Minten, DDS, said the issue with opioid prescription is often the dosage amount.

Because of a different bill Sater sponsored, Missouri healthcare providers can't write an opioid prescription that exceeds a seven-day supply. Barnett said the state has no dosage limit for that supply.

"The big problem is with people who were getting large doses, and I don't think most dentists prescribe opioids in large quantities," Minten said. "Unfortunately, there are those out there that will. They will just keep writing prescriptions instead of making the patient deal with the problem."

Minten said the bill is good for those dentists who don't act "responsibly" in prescribing opioids. 

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in December, looked at people age 16 to 25 who first used opioids after dental care. They were more than 10 times more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with opioid abuse within a year of getting that prescription.

Sater said this bill aims to change the pattern.

"This isn't going to solve the opioid epidemic, but it's another step in the right direction," Sater said. 

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