April 27, 2017 10:03 AM

The House Committee on Health and Welfare recommended two bills to the full House Wednesday that seek to deter over-prescription of opioids in Louisiana, which experts say have reached epidemic levels.

House Bill 192, by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, would prevent doctors from issuing first-time opioid prescriptions for acute pain for longer than one week. After seven days, patients would have to request a new prescription.

Doctors would also have to discuss the risks of opioid medications with their patients and give them the option to reduce the length of the prescription, under the proposed law.

“There are more prescriptions for opioids in Louisiana than there are people,” saied Moreno. “This has become an epidemic.”

David Broussard, a physician with the Louisiana Medical Society, said the length of the first prescription often determines the likelihood that a patient continues to use the drug years after the first treatment.

“Some people are genetically pre-disposed to addiction; others work really hard to get addicted. We need to intervene before these people’s problems get worse,” said Ed Carlson, CEO of addiction recovery organization Odyssey House.

Some legislators expressed fear that cancer patients could be affected by limits to opioid prescriptions, but Moreno pointed out that House Bill 192 only affects treatment for acute pain related to relatively minor injuries or conditions.

Additionally, Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, sought and received approval of House Bill 490, establishing an Advisory Council on Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education within the Drug Policy Board to provide data on opiate addiction and efforts to prevent it.

The committee reported both bills to the House without opposition.

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