Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich unveiled new rules for doctors Thursday that place strict limits on how long a patient can be prescribed opiate-based painkillers.
The order from the governor’s office, approved by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, bars primary care physicians and dentists from prescribing opioids for more than seven days for adults and five days for children. Kasich is also enacting a plan for greater oversight of patients using opioids, requiring doctors to give a specific diagnosis before giving out the medication. The rules will not apply to patients with cancer or living in a hospice setting, reports NBC News.
Kasich is warning doctors throughout the state they will lose their medical license if they fail to comply with the new regulations. Ohio is suffering a high rate of heroin addiction linked to previous opioid abuse.
“You’re going to have to abide by these rules,” Kasich said Thursday, according to NBC News. “Health care providers can prescribe opiates in excess of the new limits only if they provide a specific reason in the patient’s medical record. By reducing the availability of unused prescription opiates, fewer Ohioans will be presented with opportunities to misuse these highly addictive medications.”
Ohio is being hit particularly hard by the national opioid epidemic, which claimed a record 33,000 lives in the U.S. in 2015. The opioid death rate in the state spiked 13 percent between 2014 and 2015, among the largest increases in the country. Heroin deaths increased by nearly 20 percent over the same period, claiming 1,444 lives.
The epidemic is posing risks to kids who are exposed to the drugs and other dangers by their parents. Officials in Ohio say opioids are the main driver of a 19 percent spike in the number of kids removed from parental custody to foster care since 2010.
Fatal overdoses from heroin quadrupled over the last five years nationally, according to data released by the National Center for Health Statistics Feb. 24. They say the massive increase in heroin and general opioid abuse in the U.S. since 2010 is driven by lower drug prices and ingredients with higher potency, like fentanyl.
Authors of the study noted in 2010 only 8 percent of all fatal drug overdoses stemmed from heroin. In 2015, roughly 25 percent of fatal drug overdoses were caused by heroin.