America is facing an opioid addiction crisis and Maryland health officials are currently working on a solution to curb excessive prescriptions. A new policy is expected to go into effect in July, which will require physicians to seek prior authorization to write prescriptions for opioid pain medications. One in five Marylanders will need prior authorization through the state’s Medicaid program.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene moves to address the record number of overdose deaths, which have affected Medicaid recipients disproportionately. Officials are reaching out to physicians, hoping to grab their attention, before their patients are too deep in the throes of addiction to opioids. Addiction opioids include oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine, along with illicit heroin.
Baltimore’s health commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen, refers to the move as “an important step in a time of a public health epidemic.” Baltimore has been hit especially hard by the opioid addiction, where a third of the alcohol and drug overdose deaths in 2016 were logged.
Maryland health officials want to encourage physicians to consider safer alternatives to opioids, screen patients better or start out with a low dose and then titrate as necessary. Treatment and overdose antidote naloxone should also be offered to addicted patients.
Physicians will be required to follow guidelines from the CDC and if they do not, they will be required to see prior authorization, before writing a prescription for painkillers.
According to state data, during the first 10 months of 2-16, over 7.3 million prescriptions for controlled substances were written. This number is slightly down from the same period in 2015.
All physicians practicing in Maryland will be required to register for the state’s prescription drug monitoring program in July. The computer system will monitor all prescriptions, giving physicians the ability to see when patients are collecting scripts from other doctors.