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Senators Gillibrand and Gardner Introduce Legislation to Limit Opioid Prescriptions to 7 Days

On March 15, U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced bipartisan legislation that would limit the supply of initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days. The bill is called The John S. McCain Opioid Addiction and Prevention Act, named after the late Republican Senator who died of brain cancer in Aug. 2018 and was formerly leading this legislation.

The senators believe this legislation will help prevent and combat opioid addiction in the United States as the rates of drug overdoses and addictions continue to rise.

“If we want to end the opioid epidemic, we must work to address the root causes of abuse,” tweeted Sen. Gillibrand, who announced her Democratic candidacy for the 2020 presidential election on Mar. 17. “That’s why @SenCoryGardner and I introduced legislation to limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to 7 days. Because no one needs a month’s supply for a wisdom tooth extraction.”

This is not the first time politicians have attempted to reduce opioid deaths and addiction by limiting access to prescription opioids. Pharmacies such as CVS and Walmart have put a seven-day limit on opioid prescriptions for certain conditions. Medicare enrollees have been limited to a seven-day supply of opioids for acute pain as well, with state Medicaid programs put “safety edits” in place for opioid refills. The Trump administration also released T.V. commercials highlighting the dangers of prescription opioids.

However, research has shown that limiting opioid prescriptions does not have an effect on the rates of death and addiction in the U.S. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid deaths in the U.S. are rising, with a 9.6 percent increase from 2016 to 2017. But this increase is due to fentanyl, not prescription opioids.

As the number of opioid prescriptions decreased from 2016 to 2017, the rate of deaths involving prescription opioids leveled off, while the rate of deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (including fentanyl) increased 45 percent.

The announcement of the legislation was instantly met with backlash from the chronic pain community.

Some believe politicians should not make legislative decisions about medical treatment or interfere with the patient-doctor relationship.

Others pointed out that acute pain doesn’t always go away after seven days. By definition, acute pain can last anywhere from one second to six months. For some, differentiating between acute and chronic pain is not as clear-cut as it may seem. Though the legislation specifies “acute” pain, it still has the potential to affect those with chronic pain, as many still experience acute pain and injuries or have their pain classified as “acute” by doctors.

Others say the legislation won’t combat opioid abuse; instead, they believe it will harm those with chronic pain, and potentially cause those struggling with addiction to turn to illicit street drugs. Many are asking the senators to do more research into opioid addiction and speak with medical experts as well as chronic pain patients.

The Mighty has reached out to Sens. Gillibrand and Gardner and has yet to hear back.

Getty Image by BackyardProduction