LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - If doctors want to prescribe opioids over a certain amount, they could soon have to provide proof that it’s necessary. That's if a proposal by the Arkansas State Medical Board goes through.
One of the biggest contributors to the overall opioid epidemic is overprescribing them. This amendment would hold doctors even more accountable for what and how much they prescribe.
"I’m scared to death, I mean I’m scared to death," said James Spencer, a patient who has been taking high doses of opioids for 14 years, since he claims he was hit head-on by an 18-wheeler.
Now Spencer claims his doctor wont prescribe him what he's used to.
"My pain management doctor has been scared to death and he has stripped me of my pain medication down 50 percent," said Spencer.
"Mr. Spencer, they’re misinformed,” said Arkansas State Medical Board Attorney Kevin O’Dwyer.
The Arkansas State Medical Board says its goal isn't to keep chronic patients from getting the medicine they need. While it would give the board power to take away a doctors license if they're over prescribing, it protects patients with serious conditions.
"We’re in a crisis. 63,600 people died in 2016. The number's not going to be better in 2017," said State Drug Director Kirk Lane.
The amendment would adopt the CDC's guidelines which defines 'excessive' as prescribing opioids for chronic pain at more than 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day. That's unless they provide proof that their patient needs more.
“My pharmacist has said the documentation required is so much and they’re scared to death they’re going to lose their license and lose their livelihood," said Spencer.
Lane told the board that Arkansas is second in the nation on prescribing rates.
"Our epidemic is growing. A lot has to do with the opioid dependency our state has," said Lane.
For patients with acute pain, the amendment keeps doctors from prescribing anything for more than seven days. Lane wants a five day prescribing limit.
"That’s what’s working in other states," said Lane.
A big concern for doctors is the part of the proposal saying the physician would need proof that a pain management specialist was consulted if prescribing more than 90 morphine milligram equivalents per day.
"Pain management has been the worst offenders. There’s no two ways about it, no ifs ands or buts," said Dr. Carlos Roman, Chairman of the State Medical Board Pain Committee.
The board hasn't made any changes official yet. They're holding a public hearing on April 5.