U.S. Representative David Trone (D-Md.), and Reps. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), and David McKinley (R-W.V.) are introducing the bipartisan Opioid Patients’ Right to Know Act in an effort to help reduce the prevalence of opioid addiction across U.S. The new proposal is based on the successful inception of the New Jersey Patient Notification Act, which was introduced in 2017 and has since been duplicated by seventeen other states nationwide. The original act requires prescribers to make patients or their guardians aware of the potential of becoming addicted to opioids as well as discuss any available alternatives available prior to prescribing these painkillers.
Last year, a study performed by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and conducted by Andrew Kolodny, MD, medical director of opioid policy research at the Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management, found, as a direct result of the 2017 act, “95% of participants said they now routinely warn patients about the potential for addiction compared to 18% who did so prior to the law being enacted; Nearly 5,000 fewer patients in New Jersey were prescribed opioids in the month following the law being enacted; The number of practitioners in the state who prescribed opioids for acute pain dropped by 1,000; and 97.5% of prescribers said they were aware of the new prescribing rules.”
“These findings show that very few opioid prescribers were warning patients about the risk of addiction before New Jersey required them to do so, and since the law was enacted, the results speak for themselves,” Dr. Kolodny said in response to the data. “It is much easier to prevent opioid use disorder in the first place than it is to treat it. One of the best ways to do this is by making sure prescribers, patients and parents understand how highly addictive opioids are before a first prescription is ever written or filled. This legislation will save lives.”
“Every American has the right to be warned about the highly addictive qualities of opioids – and made aware of effective non-opioid pain relief alternatives – especially right before an opioid is prescribed,” agreed Elaine Pozycki, the Chair of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and Founder of Prevent Opioid Abuse. “The Opioid Patients’ Right to Know Act provides a proven prevention measure, and I urge Congress to move speedily to adopt it.”
The new act would aim to establish a grant program providing states with incentives for requiring practitioners to discuss the points outlined in the New Jersey Patient Notification Act. In doing so, its sponsors hope to gain even greater traction for the initiative.
“I am proud that what we have done in New Jersey to prevent opioid dependency and addiction can serve as a model for the country,” said New Jersey State Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), sponsor of the 2017 law. “We must continue to support and improve access to prevention, treatment, education and recovery efforts for patients, parents, and families from the very first point of contact, oftentimes with a physician, so we can reverse the rapid trend of opioid-related addiction and deaths. We have a shared responsibility to take action.”