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Final votes expected on opioid-related bills

Legislation would affect doctors, hospitals, insurers

If state lawmakers give the OK this week, physicians, health insurers and emergency departments across the state will face changes in how they handle opioid pain pills.

Several opioid-related bills moved through state House and Senate committees last week, and are expected to get final votes this week.

The House will be voting on three bills already passed by the state. The legislation would establish rules for prescribing opioids to minors, add opioid education to public schools and require physicians to take a class on prescribing opioids before receiving a license to prescribe them.

The Senate is slated to vote on three House-passed bills next week.

The first bill would regulate the quantity of opioid prescriptions doled out in hospital emergency departments and urgent care center. Another would allow people to return unused drugs to pharmacies for disposal.

The third bill to be voted on by the Senate would require health insurers to cover at a more affordable rate a new form of opioids called abuse-deterrent opioids. They are pain pills that can’t be altered from their original form.

The new pills would be harder to abuse because people could not melt them into a liquid and inject them, or crush the pills with a hammer for snorting – two common ways opioids are abused.

Massachusetts lawmakers passed similar legislation, and it seems to be working pretty well, Gov. Tom Wolf has said.

Lawmakers are focused on opioid-related bills this fall at the request of Wolf, who addressed representatives and senators in September during a joint session of the General Assembly.

Wolf highlighted legislation he would like to see passed this fall. Pennsylvania is losing 10 people a day because of drug overdoses – mainly due to opioid pain pill and heroin use – and drug-related deaths continue to increase.

Lenay Ruhl

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