Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) and Senator John Wozniak (D-35) announced that the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee approved a bill requiring medical professionals to undergo two hours of continuing medical education (CME) in both “opioid prescribing practices” and “pain management” on Tuesday, June 7th, 2016.
Known as Senate Bill 1202, the bill would require people that are applying for a license for the first time or are renewing their license or certification in Pennsylvania to undergo the training. The goal of the bill is to fight against the abuse of opioids and prescription drugs in Pennsylvania. Many people who abuse drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin end up using heroin. In fact, hearings conducted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania found that around 80% of heroin addicts used prescription opioids before becoming addicted to heroin. According to Yaw and Wozniak, Pennsylvania currently ranks number seven in the United States for drug-related overdose deaths.
Yaw explained more about Senate Bill 1202 in his statement. He said, “Approximately 80 percent of heroin addicts can trace their addiction back to prescription opioids… Senate Bill 1202 would incorporate pain management and opioid prescribing practices within existing curricula requirements for medical prescribers, and as a portion of the total continuing education required for biennial renewal. I want to thank Senator Tomlinson and the Committee members for approving this important measure that will aid in the fight against opioid abuse. I also would like to thank the Pennsylvania Medical Society for working with us on this legislation.”
Wozniak also talked about Senate Bill 1202 in a statement. He said, “The legislation will help keep the focus on addressing the heroin epidemic by requiring additional training in pain management and opioid prescribing practices… It is clear that our ability to deal with heroin addiction requires maximum effort and energy in a variety of areas. An excellent way to stop the heroin from spreading is through the implementation of sensible practices and policies that come from more education about opioids.”
A National Survey of Primary Care Physicians found that nine out of ten doctors believe that prescription drug abuse is a “moderate to large” issue in their areas. In addition, 85% of doctors think prescription drugs are “overused” in the medical world. Both Yaw and Wozniak are a part of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. According to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania website, it “is a bipartisan, bicameral legislative agency that serves as a resource for rural policy within the Pennsylvania General Assembly.” The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has held ten public meetings discussing the heroin and opioid problem in Pennsylvania since 2014.
Yaw is also co-sponsoring other legislation related to combating prescription drug abuse. On Monday, June 6th, Yaw said he would introduce legislation that would require medical schools to have Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum. In addition to knowing how to safely prescribe opioids, the curriculum would also require students to show proficiency in the use of the heroin overdose antidote naloxone.
Senate Bill 1202 is now headed to the Senate.