Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Orthopedic Doctors See Benefits of Some Opioid-Prescribing Curbs

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Orthopedic Doctors See Benefits of Some Opioid-Prescribing Curbs

Article excerpt

It happens every Friday afternoon in many orthopedists' offices, said Charles Hummer: a "massive uptick at 4:45 ... of phone calls saying, 'I've lost my prescription.'"

Some of those patients may be lying to get extra narcotics to use or sell, one aspect of the opioid and overdose epidemic. "It's a major, major crisis," said Dr. Hummer.

Dr. Hummer of Chester, Pa., was in Pittsburgh Thursday for a seasonal meeting of the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society. Much of the talk was of the opioid epidemic, and Harrisburg's response to it. The orthopedists aren't opposing some of the most contentious proposals that may come up for votes in the coming two weeks, including restrictions on prescribing narcotics at emergency rooms and to youth.

They are concerned, though, that a new database of patient drug histories is proving to be balky, and that some simple fixes may be missed.

"We want to be part of the solution," said Patrick Smith, a spine surgeon at UPMC St. Margaret, who is the society's new president. "We are on the front lines here. These are our patients."

Legislative solutions "can't be so broad that you're taking a sledgehammer to the specific issues" within the opioid epidemic, state House Speaker Mike Turzai told the orthopedists. "And you've got to do it in a manner that allows for the everyday practice" of medicine.

He said that bills meant to address the state's addiction epidemic will almost certainly pass in the coming weeks, following "robust discussion" and probably compromises.

The doctors want to see a bill allowing them to electronically prescribe narcotics, sending the prescriptions directly to pharmacies through secure networks. State law now requires that such prescriptions be written on paper, but theft and forgery of prescriptions has become a problem.

Electronic prescribing "would eliminate the rogue prescribers sitting in a crack house writing prescriptions for opioids," said Dr. …

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