On February 6th, New Jersey passed a law which “[r]equires prescribers to discuss addiction risk associated with certain drugs prior to issuing prescription to minor patient.” New Jersey’s drug overdose rate is twice the national rate, and Governor Chris Christie has officially categorized opioid abuse as a public health crisis, issuing an executive order on January 17th with measures to combat the increasing rates of addiction in the state.
Senate Bill 2156 requires physicians to educate minor patients and their parents or guardians about dependency risks of Schedule II controlled substances and any opioid prescription drugs, in addition to available alternatives, as appropriate. A written acknowledgement of the discussion must be obtained for the patient’s medical record. There is an exception in the bill for patients receiving hospice care.
A related bill was introduced in the New Jersey Senate on January 30th which would, among other things, require insurance providers to cover treatment for substance use disorders, prevent physicians from prescribing more than a five-day supply of Schedule II or opioid drugs in an initial prescription, and increase continuing education requirements for nurses, optometrists, dentists, physicians, and pharmacists. The bill was passed by the Senate on February 6th.
New Jersey should be applauded for its efforts toward increasing responsibility and accountability in the prescribing of dangerous medications. The results of this legislation, as it is implemented, will provide opportunity for discerning beneficial aspects of policy that could be incorporated in other states.