Opioid Addiction and the Pharmacist or Doctor’s New Legal Responsibility

Two New York Times headlines affirm the federal and state government responses to pharmacists and medical practitioners’ complicity in the national opioid epidemic.   C.D.C. Painkiller Guidelines Aim to Reduce Addiction Risk and The End of Prescriptions as We Know Them in New York say it all.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania pharmacists and medical practitioners must become fully familiar with new federal opioid prescription guidelines. In Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Medical Board released New Opioid Prescribing Guidelines. In 2014 Pennsylvania House Resolution 659 of 2014 directed the Joint State Government Commission to establish a legislative task force and appoint an advisory committee to study opioid addiction in Pennsylvania.  As well, the Effective Prescribing Practices and Pain Management Task Force drafted “Pennsylvania Guidelines on the Use of Opioids to Treat Chronic Noncancer Pain.”

These Commonwealth medical regulatory publications establish a significantly heightened corresponding responsibility for pharmacists filling opioid prescriptions and basic prescription writing responsibility for doctors when writing opioid prescriptions.  New York’s huge step in eliminating all written prescriptions, which eliminated 85% of opioid prescriptions in New York State, is coming to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The new federal CDC dispensing guidelines, provide clear recommendations about opioid prescribing for primary care physician’s treating adult patients with chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, or end-of-life care. These guidelines, in conjunction with Pennsylvania’s House Resolution 659 of 2014, set forth proper an effective prescribing practices.

These federal and state directives, along with many more, provide a clear framework for disciplinary action against physicians or pharmacists who violate the guidelines. Practitioners who fail to decrease the amount of opioid prescriptions written in comparison to their geographic peers is easy secured proof of dispensing conduct in violation of new and developing guidelines.  As well, malpractice claims against either the doctor or pharmacist, constituting a reportable disciplinary event, will also trigger disciplinary investigations and potential disciplinary actions.

Please call to discuss any investigation of your pharmacy, pharmacist, or your medical practices prescription writing histories. These investigations may either be ongoing or commenced by state or federal DEA agents, board investigators, insurance malpractice defense attorneys, or plaintiffs attorneys.

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