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Ask the Expert: How will House Bill 333 help fight addiction?

A new bill designed to fight addiction has just been signed into law in Kentucky and will go into effect this summer. (WKRC)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKRC) - A new bill designed to fight addiction has just been signed into law in Kentucky and will go into effect this summer.

House Bill 333 is designed to fight addiction in a number of ways, but one of the things it does is set prescription limits in the state of Kentucky.

Several other states, including Ohio, have similar laws in the works.

Experts at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, and those who sponsored the bill in the Kentucky Governor's Office, say it will help reduce the number of people who become addicted to prescription painkillers.

"I think the biggest thing about this bill is really what it does is address the acute patients who are naive to opiates," said Dr. Larry Kendall, the Emergency Medicine and Chief Medical Officer and senior vice president at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. "Those are the ones that you don't want to give them the long-standing prescription because that increases their chances of becoming addicted to one of the most powerful drugs in the world."

The drugs, commonly called opiates, are highly addictive, according to Dr. Kendall. He is part of the medical community, along with St. Elizabeth Healthcare, who support House Bill 333. The bill is based in part on studies compiled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which show that three out of four people who end up using injectible drugs, such as heroin, report that their first opiate was a prescription drug.

The new bill is designed to work against that by putting, in most cases, a three-day limit on new opiate prescriptions.

"Because what we are trying to do with this bill is reduce the number of new patients that are addicted opiates," said Dr. Kendall.

There are automatic exemptions for the three-day limit, according to Kim Moser, who is the sponsor of the bill and the director of Drug Control Policy in northern Kentucky.

"If a prescriber indicates something medically necessary past that three-day threshhold, they can absolutely write a prescription for chronic pain, cancer hospice, inpatient prescribing...for as much as they need," Moser said.

Providers, she says, are asked to clarify why there is a need for the exemptions. It's also suggested that alternatives for pain besides opiates be considered, so that's an important discussion for patients to talk to their own doctor about.

"That's kind of the point. We have a very easy solution, and yes the opiods take the pain away, but we are ending up with a huge number of addicted individuals, and with this bill, we hope to reset the thinking that opiods are the first line of treatment and reduce the number of individuals who end up addicted to these really dangerous medications," said Moser.

Years ago, pain became what medical providers called 'the fifth vital sign.' It is a problem that should always be addressed. Some think that it got out-of-hand.

Local 12 will follow up as this becomes law to see if and how it meets the intended goals.

As always, we invite your questions for providers at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

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