The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

State News

July 24, 2013

Doctors may see new prescribing rules for painkillers

INDIANAPOLIS — A new law targeting "pill mills" may change the way doctors throughout Indiana treat patients with chronic pain by putting new protocols in place for prescribing opioid-based drugs.

The state's Medical Licensing Board is considering an emergency set of rules, triggered by the new law, that calls for drug testing of pain-medication patients and more screening and monitoring of patients by doctors to detect drug addiction and abuse.

If adopted, the emergency rules would go into place in December and likely be the basis for more permanent prescribing rules.

"This would be a sea change for providers who are used to writing out scrips and just walking out the door," said Dr. Amy LaHood, an Indianapolis family physician and a member of the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, which supports the proposed new rules.

In April, the Indiana General Assembly passed a new law, dubbed the "pill mill bill," that gives Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller new authority to crack down on what he's called the thinly regulated 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 goes much further, potentially impacting every doctor who prescribes addictive narcotics such as Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin to patients with chronic pain. The law mandates that the Medical Licensing Board adopt a set of rules for how doctors prescribe morphine and opioid-based drugs and how they monitor those patients. The board has until November to adopt the emergency rules in order for them to go into effect in December.

The board got a look at a draft of the proposed rules Wednesday and heard from task force members that called them "sweeping" in scope and critical in reducing the number of drug overdoses in Indiana from prescription painkillers.

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