The governor of New Jersey has taken the state’s opioid epidemic into his own hands after signing a new bill into law Wednesday that would limit painkiller prescriptions and force insurance companies to approve a patient's addiction treatment program without delay. Gov. Chris Christie called the new law the “toughest in the country in the fight against heroin and opioid addiction," according to reports.
The new bill, S3, would enforce a five-day limit on initial prescriptions for opioids, which means going forward doctors will only be able to prescribe a medication that lasts five days for patients who have undergone surgery or extensive dental work that could result in pain. In most cases, doctors can prescribe 30-day painkiller prescriptions.
The law has been considered controversial by the state’s biggest physician lobbying group, The Medical Society of New Jersey, which opposed the idea of government mandating doctor-patient matters. Some state legislators also had concerns that the law may be too drastic, including Republican Assemblyman Declan O’Scalon, who called the five-day limit “dramatic” and suggested imposing a seven-day limit on prescriptions instead. However, O’Scalon did note that the bill was an important first step in cracking down on the state’s opioid crisis, which led to the deaths of more than 1,600 New Jerseyans in 2015.
“This is ravaging each one of our communities. We must fight it together,” he told local media following Wednesday’s press conference.
Christie said he would veto measures to expand the five-day limit. However, under S3, physicians can add another five days to prescriptions if a patient’s pain hasn’t subsided after the fourth day. Christie has been notoriously passionate about passing aggressive legislation to limit the number of days a prescription can last, stating in a January speech that 30-day prescriptions were “dangerous, ill-advised and absolutely unnecessary.”
"We know addiction to opioids can occur within days. We must work against potential addiction -- and overdose -- by limiting supply to five days that can be obtained at the outset of treatment,” Christie said at the time. "Prescribers would be required to consult the patient, assess their need and only then provide further authorization for additional quantities.”
New Jersey was just one of many states battling the opioid epidemic. In 2015, more than 15,000 people across the U.S. died from overdoses involving prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
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NJ Governor's Proposed Bill 53 Would Hugely Limit Initial Pain Medicine Prescriptions