It was clear when Governor Haslam announced his TN Together plan in January that lawmakers were going to do something to try to address the state’s opioid abuse epidemic. With the passage of SB 2257/HB 1831, Tennessee now has one of the most comprehensive and restrictive laws of any state.
The Tennessee Medical Association was actively engaged in the process and appreciates legislators’ willingness to consider input from physician stakeholders.
From the beginning and during the past several weeks of negotiations, TMA advocated for a mindful yet practical approach to initial opioid supply and dosage. Most importantly, we wanted to make sure it did not unreasonably obstruct patients in legitimate pain from getting the care they need.
The final bill is substantially improved from the initial version. New restrictions on prescribing and dispensing will no doubt achieve the governor’s stated goal of reducing overall initial supply. TMA will educate doctors on the new law as part of our ongoing efforts to promote safe and proper prescribing.
Tennessee’s doctors remain concerned, however, about unintended consequences for patients who because of the new law may have more difficulty accessing effective pain management. There are not enough certified pain specialists in Tennessee to care for Tennesseans experiencing legitimate chronic pain. Meanwhile, exploding use of fentanyl, heroin and other illicit drugs are causing more accidental overdose deaths even as opioid prescriptions decline. We still need a multi-faceted and well-funded strategy including treatment and law enforcement to turn back this epidemic.
Nita W. Shumaker, MD
TMA President 2017-2018