ATLANTA (AP) — In a story Feb. 20 about legislative regulation of pain killers, The Associated Press reported erroneously that a bill passed by the Georgia House of Representatives would expand the class of medical professionals that can administer hydrocodone to include optometrists. Optometrists have previously been able to administer hydrocodone, but federal regulators reclassified the drug as a more serious narcotic. House Bill 235 is a response to that change so that Georgia optometrists can continue to dispense hydrocodone in certain circumstances.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Ga. House approves regulations for pain clinics
In effort to fight 'pill mills,' Georgia House approves new regulations for pain clinics
By BILL BARROW
ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia House of Representatives has approved a proposal that calls for the state to license and regulate businesses that call themselves pain management clinics.
House Bill 178 is a response to a flood of so-called 'pill mills,' unregulated businesses that are credited with feeding prescription drug abuse. The 150-15 vote sends the measure to the Senate, where similar legislation died last year without a vote.
"We don't have any laws that state law enforcement can use to stop these pill mills from operating in our communities," said Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold.
Attorney General Sam Olens has championed House Bill 178, as have law enforcement agencies around the state.
A pain clinic is defined in the bill as a medical enterprise where at least half of the patient population is being treated for chronic pain. The bill is not intended to target prescriptions for patients nearing the end of life because of terminal illness or drugs issued to manage short-term pain associated with injuries or specific medical procedures.
Affected businesses would have to get a state license from the Georgia Composite Medical Board beginning in July. The board already licenses physicians in the state. Licenses would have to be renewed every two years.
More significantly, the proposal would require that all new pain clinics be owned by physicians. Existing clinics where non-physicians have ownership shares with physicians would be allowed to remain open but still be subject to all new regulations. Still, the provision drew complaints from the few members who voted against the bill.
Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, said limiting ownership to a specific class of citizens is an unnecessary intrusion into the marketplace. He noted that other health-care enterprises — from hospitals to clinics — have a variety of ownership structures, including models where all physicians are merely employees of owners who are not doctors.