In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called prescription drug abuse the fastest-growing drug problem in the U.S. From 1999 to 2009, the number of deaths nationwide from opioid painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone nearly quadrupled – causing more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined. A recent study by Trust for America’s Health found Indiana has the 17th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the country.
Drugs containing hydrocodone represent a major share of the drug overdoses and some public health experts believe tightening the rules governing how opioid-based painkillers are prescribed will curb their abuse.
The painkillers being targeted by the new restrictions are widely prescribed. In 2011, the federal government estimated there were 131 million prescriptions written for hydrocodone-containing drugs.
“You’ve got to believe those numbers are even higher now,” said Grooms.
Grooms sponsored what’s known as the “pill mill” that gives Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller new authority to crack down on pain-management clinics around the state. It gives the attorney general’s office more access to medical records maintained by pain clinics and requires every pain management clinic in Indiana be owned and operated by someone who holds a valid registration to prescribe controlled substances.
But the law also called for the state Medical Licensing Board to put new protocols in place for prescribing opioid-based drugs. Dr. Amy LaHood, an Indianapolis family physician who helped write the rules said they were needed to target doctors “used to writing out ‘scrips and just walking out the door.”
The new rules are aimed at curbing dependence on pain-killing drugs and their illegal sale to drug abusers. The new rules require doctors to do more screening of patients before prescribing the drugs, including the use of the state’s online database that tracks prescriptions for controlled substances.