Minnesota struggles to rein in prescription opioids

St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota) (10/16/17)

Although Minnesota has more information than ever before about opioid prescriptions and health officials are responding with a variety of new efforts, the data is still incomplete. The Legislature created a Prescription Monitoring Program in 2007, but only a year's worth of data was retained at any one time in order to protect patient privacy. Now, information is available starting with 2014, as state law was temporarily changed to provide officials with more information to study the opioid epidemic; however, the law will revert back in 2019, and prescription records will be discarded after a year again. Prescribers are not required to use the monitoring system before they prescribe a patient opioids, and less than one-half of prescribers do. State and federal leaders believe that more could be done. For example, state Rep. Dave Baker is backing "opioid stewardship" legislation that would charge a fee for each unit of opioid prescribed in Minnesota. Those funds would be used to alleviate the damaging effects of the drug, from addiction to environmental contamination. Another effort is to link the prescription monitoring system to doctors' electronic medical records, which would make the system quicker and easier to use. The most recent data reported to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy show opioid prescriptions continue to decline in 2017, an encouraging sign to state health officials. Cody Wiberg, the board's executive director, attributes the trend to the medical community better understanding the danger of opioids and changing its prescribing practices.

Read More