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By Bob Howard | Published: April 18, 2018
With more than 65,000 annual overdose deaths attributed to opioids nationally, and tons of prescription opioids coming into Oklahoma annually, it's high time we more intelligently and tightly controlled this frighteningly dangerous drug.
Attorney General Mike Hunter's Opioid Task Force is to be commended for shining a light on the layers of complex, debilitating issues associated with the opioid crisis' effect on Oklahoma. Oklahoma's physicians have stepped up to take a leadership role in supporting sensible laws to deal with this crisis, including the pill limit bill, Senate Bill 1446.
SB 1446 promises to have a significantly positive effect to stem the tide of the growing problem, and to ensure that Oklahomans with legitimate need for opioids get them. Importantly, SB 1446 requires a patient be staged through a limited initial prescription, a limited second prescription, and then be formally advised that continued opioid use can result in addiction.
The facts of the death count are indisputable: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the number of opioid overdoses and deaths rises and falls in line with one thing — the number of prescription opioids.
The extreme addictiveness of opioids is also indisputable. The CDC reports that a patient's chances of being addicted for over a year are about one in 10 with a five-day supply. With only a 15-day supply, the odds of being addicted for over a year skyrocket to one in three.
For 20 years, the drug companies' sales pitch to physicians has been that a routine 30-day supply is not addictive. We now know this is a load of hockey (they said it is only “pseudoaddictive,” which is apparently a word they made up). The unfortunate reality is that this sales pitch has been used for more than 20 years, and our physicians have been hoodwinked.
The toll on Oklahoma has been enormous and will be for some time. Recognizing that fact, Hunter has filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers for the damage caused in Oklahoma by their greed-motivated misrepresentations. They have made billions, but we're now on to them, and they should be held accountable to clean it up.
We don't yet have all the answers, all the regulations, and all the education and awareness to put this crisis into the history books. And unfortunately, we're not alone, as no state has the whole problem solved. We do, however, have an awakening populace, medical community and government leadership that is taking action.
With final passage of SB 1446 and Gov. Mary Fallin's signature, Oklahoma will have historic, sensible, science-based opioid prescription pill limits. Thank you again to the Legislature, our medical community and our attorney general. Their actions today will save Oklahoma lives.
Howard is an Oklahoma City businessman.