State lawmaker proposes limiting opioid prescriptions to 3 days

A state lawmaker is hoping to tackle the epidemic of opioid abuse in California by putting restrictions on how long a patient can be prescribed the drugs.

The bill by Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, seeks to implement more stringent oversight from doctors by limiting prescriptions for opioids to a maximum of three days.

Under AB 1998, if the dosage remains the same by the third refill, the prescribing doctor would be required to justify in the patients’ medical record why it's necessary to continue treatment at that current dosage.

The bill would allow some exceptions, including those for cancer patients and patients with chronic pain.

State figures show opioids, which also include heroin and synthetic drugs like fentanyl, were linked to almost 2,000 overdose deaths and nearly 4,000 emergency room visits in 2016. 

Opponents of the bill argue that heroin and illegal fentanyl use are the leading causes of the opioid overdose epidemic, and that AB 1998 would drive more users to turn to the black market. 

Opponents also say the bill would end up punishing those patients who really need the drugs.

Opioids have been increasingly used to manage chronic pain, leading to growing concern about the misuse of the highly addictive class of drugs.