A new law that will help fight the opioid crisis in Georgia will go into effect on July 1.
House Bill 249 was sent to the governor on April 7 after making it through the House with a vote of 164-9 and through the Senate with a vote of 50-0.
“The overall goal of passing the law is really to reduce prescription drug abuse and enhance patient safety,” said Dr. Steven Walsh, president of the Medical Association of Georgia.
The bill, sponsored by State Representative Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), includes different provisions to help address and reduce opioid abuse by improving Georgia’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) and making it more effective.
Although the PDMP has been in place and collecting data since July 1, 2013, with HB 249 it will now be updated more frequently. The new law will require pharmacist to log every prescription for a controlled substance within 24 hours, where as before it was at least once a week and no later than 10 days.
Greg Reybold, vice president of public policy and association counsel for the Georgia Pharmacy Association, believes making the switch to updating the system every 24 hours, rather than once a week, will make the program better.
“A patient can be going to multiple pharmacies on multiple days but putting that information in every 24 hours makes that information much more up-to-date, much more relevant, and thus much more effective,” Reybold said.
Pharmacists were already obligated to update the database, while there was nothing mandatory for prescribers. Now, anyone prescribing controlled substances will have to enroll in the system by January 2018. They will also be required to update the database when prescribing a controlled substance and to check the PDMP database when they are first prescribing a patient, as well as a minimum of once every 90 days.
In July 2018 they will required to check the PDMP when prescribing controlled substances or a benzodiazepine, such as Xanax.
Accountability is also a part of the new law. The Georgia Medical Composite Board, which investigates complaints against doctors, will deal with those that are prescribing these drugs but not checking the system in compliance with the new guidelines.
Physicians will now be able to delegate these responsibilities to members of their medical staff, as well as staff members that have undergone a registration process. Health care facilities and prescribers at hospitals that provide emergency services can also designate employees to serve as representatives.
Exemptions to the use of the PDMP will be allowed depending on the supply, amount of pills, the status of the patient’s health, the type of treatment the patient is receiving and the type of care they are in.
Another provision in the bill will require prescribers to notify the patient, either by talking to them or in writing, about the drug’s addictive risks and the options that are available for safely disposing of any unused medications.
The PDMP is transitioning and will no longer be under the control of the Georgia Drug and Narcotics Agency (GDNA). HB 249 moves it to Department of Public Health (DPH), which will place it in a public health position rather than a law enforcement agency.