Tennessee House Panel, Gov. Haslam, Face Off on Opioid Prescription Limits

A House panel's action last week to move alternative legislation to Gov. Bill Haslam's opioid proposal is spurring intense discussions between administration officials and health providers who believe the governor's proposed prescription limits go too far, reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Haslam and top administration health officials argue the limits are necessary to combat Tennessee's opioid crisis. Detractors feel the proposed limits are too drastic and impede the authority of doctors, interfering with their patient relationships and prompt multiple visits.

The governor’s plan wants to limit prescriptions for new patients to just five days and with a second opioid prescription for 10 days in "exceptional cases." Doctors will have to justify and document the second prescription under the legislation and first seek non-opioid treatments. There are exceptions for patients suffering from cancer or who are in end-of-life hospice care. Existing patients suffering from chronic pain will not be impacted by the legislation should it become law.

The alternative bill, sponsored by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, who chairs the House Health Committee seeks to mitigate some of the prescription limits, allowing doctors to continue prescribing initial doses of painkillers and provide discretion to pharmacists on how much to fill at one time.  "I think the administration's bill, we felt like, may be a little too burdensome on the patient and prescribers and tries to treat everyone the same even in the practice of medicine. What we felt like was we didn't have to intercede into the practice of medicine," said Sexton. "We thought we could go a little bit different route to achieve that same goal."

Republican senators appear to be more in line with Haslam's original legislation, which is scheduled to come up today in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Taken together, it would amount to some of the nation's strictest prescription limits. 

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