I hear you — and I want to get my bill on opioids right.
Recently, I tweeted about my bill that would limit the prescription of opioids for acute pain — things like wisdom teeth removals or broken bones — to seven days for an initial prescription. Based on some of the reactions I received, I want to clarify the intent of the bill, and emphasize some important exemptions included in it. At the same time, I want to assure that new perspectives and concerns raised about this legislation will be heard and taken into account to ensure that patient concerns are addressed, while also combating the over-prescription of these highly addictive drugs.
When I originally introduced this bill with Senator John McCain last Congress, the intent was to address what experts believe is one of the root causes of the opioid epidemic: the over-prescription of opioids for acute pain.
I wrote this bill in consultation with many experts and groups, including researchers, advocates, doctors, patients, and families of patients. It was based on CDC recommendations — and reflects a movement across the nation in which 15 states, including New York, already have laws that limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain.
This legislation was written to explicitly exclude opioid treatment for patients suffering from chronic pain, cancer, or other longer-term health conditions, so chronic pain patients would not be affected by this bill. And it only applies to initial prescriptions for acute pain, so if patients need a prescription for opioids for acute pain after the initial seven-day prescription, their refill would be at the discretion of their doctor.
In the past couple of days, I have heard from many patients in New York and across the country who have serious concerns about whether this bill would affect their personal medical treatments. I’m especially paying attention to the concerns that this bill could exacerbate disparities and biases in our health care system — disproportionately faced by women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Even through our collaboration with health care experts and advocates on this legislation, this was the first time that my office and I have heard this level of criticism, and many of the concerns raised by patients and disability advocates were issues I had not previously heard. And I hear them now.
I want to get this right, and I believe that we can have legislation to help combat the opioid epidemic and the over-prescription of these powerful drugs without affecting treatment for those who need this medication. I fundamentally believe that all health care should be between doctors and patients, and this bill is not intended to interfere with these decisions but to ensure doctors prescribe opioids with a higher level of scrutiny, given their highly addictive and dangerous effects.
To the patients and disability advocates who have raised concerns: Thank you for sharing your stories. I am listening. I would be more than happy to meet with you to hear your ideas about how to make this bill better — and to ensure that it does what it was originally intended to do without harming patients. No American should ever worry that they won’t be able to access the treatment or medicine they need, and I am open to improving the bill to address these concerns.