Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Amendments, Doctors Put End to Final Opioid Bill

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Amendments, Doctors Put End to Final Opioid Bill

Article excerpt

Eleventh-hour amendments and doctors wary of legislative encroachments doomed a state bill requiring insurers to cover abuse-resistant opioids, adding political sting to a week of unprecedented lawmaking regarding painkillers.

Even as Gov. Tom Wolf prepared to sign, next week, a pile of bills aimed at curbing opioid prescribing, a spokesman said the administration was "incredibly frustrated and disappointed" that a doctors group thwarted one proposal.

"That was an important piece of legislation to the governor and to many Republicans," said Jeff Sheridan, Mr. Wolf's spokesman. "And the Pennsylvania Medical Society stopped that in its tracks."

"There was an add-on to it, an amendment, last minute," countered Charles Cutler, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. "We thought that the amendment would create obstacles to physicians in prescribing these medications."

The bill would have required that if insurers cover opioids, they must also cover sometimes pricey versions of those drugs that can't easily be crushed, snorted, smoked, injected or otherwise abused. Sponsored by Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, it passed the House, 190-3, in June.

Early this week, the medical society supported the bill, said Dr. Cutler.

On Tuesday, though, Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, amended the bill to call for mandatory guidelines on the prescribing of abuse-deterrent opioids, to be written by the Department of Health. His amendment would have also required that doctors hand out warning information with every opioid prescription.

Mr. White was not available for comment.

The amended version passed muster with the Senate Appropriations Committee, 24-0, on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, though, the medical society issued a letter warning against "efforts to legislate physicians' communications to their patients."

"There are patients that need these medications," said Dr. Cutler. "And if there's language in the brochure that frightens the patient or confuses them, we think it would be counterproductive. …

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