Last Updated: Apr 30, 2019
A Pennsylvania bill, if enacted, could require the mandatory implementation of opioid prescribing guidelines by the Department of Health as determined by an Advisory Council made up of government officials and individuals who are appointed by the governor and represent stakeholder groups.
The legislation – Senate Bill (SB) 566, introduced by Senator Gene Yaw – was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on April 18, 2019.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) opposes the bill. We believe physicians should have the ability to use their years of training and experience to practice with clinical autonomy.
We will continue to oppose legislation seeking to mandate clinical practice. PAMED was successful in opposing a similar bill during the previous legislative session.
Every Patient Is Different – And, Mandates Ignore Clinical Nuances
Pennsylvania’s opioid prescribing guidelines, currently voluntary, are a valuable tool for prescribers. Physicians know, however, that a treatment protocol that works for one patient may not for another. Cookie cutter approaches don’t work well in medicine.
Some chronic pain patients in the state have said they have had difficulty finding a doctor to help them manage their pain. Mandating guidelines could worsen this problem and force physicians into practicing defensive medicine.
In a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, the authors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) voluntary opioid guideline cautioned that misapplying the guideline led to unintended consequences for some patients. “Policies should allow clinicians to account for each patient’s unique circumstances in making clinical decisions,” they wrote.
Physicians can educate lawmakers about why this bill, if passed, could do more harm than good for patients. Consider reaching out to your legislator to meet with them on this issue. Get your legislators' contact information here.
PAMED encourages lawmakers to remain focused on a more immediate need in the opioid crisis: increasing funding and access for those who need treatment for an opioid use disorder. We will closely monitor any developments concerning SB 566 and share updates with members.