COLUMBUS -- Doctors will be limited in the number of prescription painkiller doses they can prescribe to patients under changes announced by Gov. John Kasich and several state agencies Thursday.
The move will restrict opiate prescriptions to seven days for adults and five days for minors and cap the total morphine equivalent daily dose in those pills.
Doctors would be allowed to issue prescriptions above the limits if they provide specific reasons in patients' medical records, and the restrictions would not apply to those dealing with cancer, hospice or palliative care or medication-assisted treatments for drug addiction.
The state medical, pharmacy, dental and nursing boards have already signed off on the changes.
"If a doctor is an outlier, you know what happens to the doctor? They lose their license," Kasich said during a morning press conference at the Statehouse, where he, lawmakers and representatives of the licensing boards announced the changes. " You are going to have to abide by these rules, and if you don't, you're going to be in serious trouble, whether you're a doctor or a dentist."
The new limits are the latest in a series of changes instituted by the Kasich administration and lawmakers in recent years to combat the state's ongoing drug epidemic. State officials have targeted prescription painkillers because they serve as a gateway to heroin and other drugs for many users.
"We have had a number of people who got addicted to prescription drugs, and as the prescription drugs have become less available and therefore more costly from those who peddle them, people have gone to heroin on the street, which is cheaper, more accessible, believe it or not," Kasich said. " What we're trying to do now is to not have another generation get hooked on prescription drugs so that they then move themselves into the area of heroin addiction."
The state earlier made policy moves that led to a decrease of total opiates dispensed to Ohioans by 162 million doses between 2012 and'16, with 2.5 million fewer opiate prescriptions issued during that time.
Other changes have required increased tracking of patients' painkiller prescriptions; according to the administration, there's also been a 78 percent decrease in the number of Ohioans able to obtain prescriptions for the same painkillers from multiple doctors.
Officials expect 109 million fewer opiate doses to be prescribed as a result of the limits announced Thursday.
"These rules are intended to promote responsible prescribing while reducing the supply of leftover pain medications ," said Mark Hurst, medical director for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. "I'm confident that the proposed rules will make an impact on reducing the number of opiate medications available for diversion of use while maintaining our ability to manage acute pain competently and compassionately."
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.