The Arkansas State Medical Board has approved new rules that could help combat the opioid epidemic. The approval brings the Natural State one step closer to implementing new regulations on how doctors prescribe opiates.
“The patient needs to be educated about these medications, know the risks of them,” said Dr. Jason Holt, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist.
The Medical Board recently voted to approve a change in how prescription drugs are regulated, according to board attorney Kevin O’Dweyer.
“The Center for Disease Control, the CDC set some regulations last year…Arkansas has picked up on that and the recommendations through our state are very similar,” Holt explained.
The regulations would set a standard dosage for a variety of opiates and would require physicians to explore alternative treatments before exceeding the set dose.
“Opiate medications are not first-line therapy in the treatment of pain, opiates probably still have a place in the use and treating chronic pain but not as a frontline tool,” Holt said.
Tonya Eastham is the manager of the Stockton Medical Group, an addiction treatment clinic.
“I think a lot of times, the opioid addiction that starts with pills because they had a really severe surgery or injury that caused chronic pain and then over time they felt they needed more and more and then before they realized it, it was a problem,” Eastham said.
Holt and Eastham say the new regulations may be helpful in combating the opioid epidemic but could also have consequences.
“If it becomes a mandate or a requirement, you might be tying doctor’s hands behind their backs in being able to provide accurate treatment,” Eastham said.
“It’s always a double-edged sword whenever you deal with any of these regulations…there will likely be people who suffer because we’re going to be under-treating pain,” Holt said.
The new regulations do not go into effect immediately. The State Medical Board still has to hold a public hearing on the issue, which will take place on Feb. 1.