SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's pharmacy and medical boards are considering proposals that call for greater scrutiny from doctors and pharmacists in giving prescriptions for opioid painkillers.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports (http://bit.ly/KQBpVv ) that the state Board of Pharmacy will consider various proposals, including one to increase the number of prescribers who use the state's prescription-drug monitoring program.
The move comes as New Mexico's overall drug-overdose death rate is the highest in the country. New statistics from the state Department of Health show a dramatic rise in the sale of opioid drugs, up 131 percent from 2001 to 2010.
"The board was very alarmed at the overdose rate in the state," said state Board of Pharmacy Director Bill Harvey. "We're very serious about reducing the amount of opioids or controlled substances that are available for abuse."
The plans also aim to better educate everyone involved about the dangers of overprescribing or becoming addicted to pills such as hydrocodone and OxyContin.
Under one proposal, practitioners including doctors, dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists and certified nurse practitioners would be required to register and train for the program when they complete their controlled-substance registration.
While that proposal doesn't require doctors to use the program, a separate proposal to be considered by the New Mexico Medical Board in August would require its use when certain controlled substances are prescribed to new patients. The rule also would apply to established patients who have continuing prescriptions for opioid pain relievers.
The Board of Pharmacy proposal would require a pharmacist to pull a year's worth of a patient's history under certain conditions, such as when the person shows potential abuse of the drugs by asking for early refills, has multiple prescribers or appears intoxicated or sedated when presenting the prescription.
The proposal also calls on pharmacists to look more closely at prescriptions written by doctors who are located out of state or outside the pharmacy's typical prescriber area and tighten rules on how soon prescriptions may be refilled.
To better educate doctors about proper prescribing habits and the dangers of painkillers, the New Mexico Medical Board is considering changes for physicians and physician assistants who are registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and have a license to prescribe opioids.
Among the changes is a requirement for five hours of training related to prescriptions for pain management before June 2013. After that, 10 of the 75 hours of continuing education that doctors must complete for each license renewal will focus on pain management.
This is the first time the board has moved to direct specific continuing education, said Lynn Hart, executive director of the New Mexico Medical Board.
Hart called the changes major and said they reflect the board's understanding of the seriousness of the problem.