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Limit Pain Prescriptions to 7 Days to Cut Opioid Abuse, Argue Senators

WASHINGTON -- Senators are hoping to combat the opioid addiction crisis by limiting initial pain prescriptions to just a week's worth of medicine.

The Opioid Addiction Prevention Act of 2017, introduced before the Easter recess by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), would amend the Controlled Substances Act to limit the quantity of prescriptions for acute pain, excluding chronic pain, end-of-life care and cancer treatment.

Gillibrand argued that the change "would target one of the root causes of the opioid addiction crisis, which is the over-prescription of these powerful and addictive drugs for acute pain" like a tooth extraction or a broken bone.

To continue to remain licensed to prescribe schedule II, III, or IV controlled substances, medical professionals would have to certify to the the Drug Enforcement Agency that initial prescriptions for acute pain don't exceed a seven-day supply and don't include refills.

McCain cited the "over-prescription of highly addictive opioids" increasing 300 percent over the past 15 years as a root cause of the crisis.

“In fact, people who are addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin," he said in a statement. "In Arizona alone, heroin and opioid overdoses have skyrocketed, with the Arizona Department of Health Services reporting that more than 1,000 people required emergency room treatment for drug overdoses in 2014 while heroin-caused deaths increased by 44 percent between 2013 and 2014."

McCain said the legislation "builds on the important steps taken by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey last fall to tackle a root cause of this epidemic by limiting the supply of an initial opioid prescription for acute pain to seven days."

"We have a long way to go to end the scourge of drugs across our communities, but this legislation is an important step forward in preventing people from getting hooked on these deadly drugs," he added.

The federal legislation is also modeled after New York, which last year cut the maximum number of days for an acute pain prescription from 30 to seven days. Refills are allowed only after another consultation with the prescribing doctor.

“Too many lives have been destroyed, too many families have been torn apart, and too many communities all over New York are suffering because of this tragic epidemic," said Gillibrand, who added that she hoped the bill would fly through the Senate.