In an effort to reduce opioid addiction and drug overdoses in Washington state, Rep. Gina McCabe has sponsored a bill that would require doctors to warn patients about the risks of opioid use.
House Bill 2447 would require health care practitioners to discuss dependency and overdose risks as well as provide pain management alternatives to opioids when prescribing opioids for the first time during the course of a patient’s treatment. The Washington State Department of Health would also be required to post a brief warning statement on their website.
McCabe says her bill is an important step in combating the opioid crisis plaguing the state and nation.
“Overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in Washington state, more so than car crashes,” said McCabe, R-Goldendale. “When you get a flu shot, you’re provided written information on the side effects of the vaccine, yet when a doctor prescribes an opioid for pain management after a surgery, he or she is not required to discuss the risks of that drug with you. That seems inconsistent, especially given how deadly this epidemic has become.”
In 2016, 694 people in Washington died due to opioid abuse, and opioid overdoses lead to more than 1,400 hospitalizations.
McCabe is calling the bill “Jeremy’s Law,” named after a former Goldendale resident. A wrestler in high school, Jeremy Williamson was prescribed OxyContin and Vicodin after suffering an injury. More surgeries led to more prescriptions for opioids, and he eventually became hooked on heroin. He entered rehab twice, overdosing between the two stints of treatment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four patients who are prescribed opioids long-term struggle with addiction. Among new heroin users, roughly three out of four report abusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing Jan. 19 at 10 a.m. in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
The 2018 legislative session began Jan. 8 and is scheduled to run for 60 consecutive days.