Arizona Health Officials Offer Broad Set Of Remedies For Opioid Epidemic

By  Will Stone
Published: Thursday, September 7, 2017 - 7:16am
Updated: Thursday, September 7, 2017 - 2:50pm

After months of work, Arizona health officials have issued a broad set of recommendations to Gov. Doug Ducey on how to combat the opioid epidemic.

Among them: Limiting the first prescription of painkillers. More closely regulating pain clinics. Requiring pharmacists to check what other medications patients may be taking.

In June, Ducey declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, citing the rising number of overdose deaths, about two each day.

Since then, the Arizona Department of Health Services has been collecting data and devising ways to address the epidemic. The new report lists more than a dozen steps that can be taken. Some require new state laws, others federal intervention.

ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said limiting the first fill of painkillers to five days for people who have never taken opioids before could prevent them from becoming addicted.

“Recently data came out from the CDC that showed the risk of long-term opioid use significantly decreases after day five. Most people will no longer need opioids after that for an acute injury and post surgery,” Christ said.

She said that would hopefully be part of a broader legislative package, which would also restrict the maximum dosage and eliminate paper prescriptions.

Gov. Ducey spokesperson Daniel Scarpinato said the governor believes some of these ideas can be turned into law next session.

“We really see this as a totally non-partisan issue. I think republicans and democrats are seeing these numbers and there’s an opportunity here to save lives,” he said.

The state hopes to reduce the number of opioid related deaths by 25 percent over the next five years.

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