Senator Dix: Ending Iowa’s Opioid Epidemic

This week, a group of legislators held a two-day meeting to talk with the medical community on potential responses to the opioid crisis in Iowa and evaluate the prescribing of opioid medications.

The committee received input from state agencies including the Iowa Department of Public Health, representatives of law enforcement, national experts, members of the medical community, and health insurers.

The opioid addiction epidemic is one of America’s foremost health crises. In 2016, Iowa had 67 opioid overdose deaths, 146 opioid-related deaths, and 2,274 opioid treatment admissions. All of these are a significant increase from 2005 when Iowa had 28 opioid overdose deaths, 59 opioid-related deaths, and 608 opioid treatment admissions.

One speaker highlighted states with more aggressive regulation of prescriptions. Currently, 18 states limit the initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain, usually to a seven day limit, while Iowa does not. Thirty-three states invalidate a prescription after 3 days to 1 year.

Another tool Iowa has to combat opioids in the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). Iowa introduced this program in 2009. The PMP is a tool utilized by government officials for reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion. The program collects, monitors, and analyzes electronically transmitted prescribing and dispensing data submitted by pharmacies and dispensing practitioners. The tool helps minimize what has become known as doctor shopping. Doctor shopping occurs when a patient visits many different doctors to request prescription narcotics, which often leads to overuse and abuse of the medication. In Iowa, prescribers are not required to register to use or use the PMP. Approximately 42 percent of prescribers are currently registered to use the PMP.

Legislators discussed a bill to address the opioid crisis for the 2018 Legislative session. More work remains for legislators on this issue prior to the 2018 session. Legislators have highlighted this issue as one that cannot be ignored. The committee will submit a report by Nov. 15 on their findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly.