A new law that limits first time opioid prescriptions may not address Louisiana’s opioid epidemic as much as we hoped. St. Tammany Coroner Charles Preston says according to numbers he's seen, only four to 13 percent of patients will misuse their opioid prescription, and four percent of those will go on to use harder drugs.
He says that means less than one percent of those who receive opioid prescriptions will abuse drugs.
“We don’t want to cause extra pain or cost or compromise the care of the 99 percent who are likely to be using the medications appropriately,” Preston said.
The law limits first time prescriptions for acute conditions to a 7-day supply. One provision allows patients to request their script only be partially filled, and they could get the rest later if needed. Preston says that could be problematic for pharmacies. He says he’s spoken to many that say they cannot practically partially fill a prescription.
“When they partially fill it, it will void the remainder of the prescription. So then the patient will be forced to visit another provider, pay another co-pay, and get an additional prescription,” Preston said.
Preston says this new law is a positive step, and he applauds New Orleans Representative Helena Moreno for shedding light on a growing problem in Louisiana and around the country. But he hopes it doesn’t cloud the importance of funding addiction treatment programs.
“Relapse is a part of recovery. So we have to be prepared to treat patients and retreat patients until they are able to successfully recover from this devastating disease process,” Preston said.