Calley signs bills to track opioid prescriptions

December 27, 2017 GMT

Lansing — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed a six-bill package Wednesday aimed at reducing opioid addiction by requiring doctors and the state to better track and control the flow of opioid-based prescription drugs.

Calley signed six bills that will collectively require doctors to use a new online prescription tracking state database, set up a legitimate doctor-patient relationship and limit the number of pills dispensed.

Health and addiction experts have long urged the medical industry to adopt new prescription opioid standards. Many heroin addicts start out using legal painkillers first, and even people who take such drugs as directed by a doctor can still wind up with addictions.

Calley and others public officials involved in the state’s addiction response have called for legislation to stop “pill mills,” or unscrupulous doctors who authorize too many prescription painkillers and end up feeding addiction.

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“It’s now claiming more lives than car accidents each year,” Calley said at a Wednesday press conference.

In 2015, 1,981 people in Michigan died of drug poisoning deaths, according to the most recent data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly 400 of those deaths were due to fatal heroin overdoses and 884 were caused by prescription opioids.

That’s a 12 percent increase in total drug poisoning deaths since 2014, when 1,745 people died of fatal overdoses.

“This will make a huge difference. It’s about earlier detection and prevention,” Calley said. “We’ve done a lot of great work to try and save lives after a person becomes addicted. What we’re doing now is the work to prevent the addiction from happening in the first place and to detect it earlier in the process and get ahead of this epidemic.”

The bills overwhelmingly passed the House earlier this month, as a handful of Democrats and Republicans opposed some of the measures. The Senate approved the bills in June, most by 36-1 votes.

A central bill in the package from Sen. Tanya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, requires that doctors review a patient’s history on MAPS before prescribing opioids. The measure was a recommended change in a report written by a task force appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to look into ways of fighting the state’s opioid epidemic.

A related bill from Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, requires the state to record opioid prescriptions in its new online database called MAPS in an effort to keep tabs on doctors who prescribe too much. It’s also meant to help doctors know when patients are hopping from office to office to get too many pills.

According to the report, every state except Missouri has a prescription drug tracking system for pills. MAPS came online in 2002 but experienced a major upgrade in April that lawmakers, Snyder’s opioid task force and health professionals hailed as a cornerstone of the state’s opioid epidemic battle.

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Calley, who Snyder named as chairman of the task force on opioid addiction, has personally called the MAPS upgrade the “center piece” of the state’s war against opioid addiction.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was a major proponent of the legislation along with Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Office — both of whom are running for governor in 2018 as Republicans.

The legislation would stop a prescriber other than veterinarians from distributing opioids without first looking into a patient’s prescription history on MAPS.

Other bills would require a “bonafide” patient-doctor relationship before a doctor could prescribe opioids and limit the supply of opioids.

The new computing system and the legislation are part of a continuing effort to curb opioid abuse in Michigan where heroin- and opioid-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, according to the state.

Legislation signed last year by Snyder allotted $2.5 million for a new cloud-based database and did not require doctors to check the system before prescribing addictive painkillers to patients.

Although some in the industry say the proposal could help fight the state’s opioid abuse epidemic, the medical society has voiced strong concerns that requiring use of the new system would be time consuming and add more work for doctors.

mgerstein@detroitnews.com