On Friday, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee heard testimony on Jeremy’s Law, a bill that would require doctors to warn patients about the risks of opioid use.
Rep. Gina McCabe, the bill’s prime sponsor, says the bill will help prevent opioid addiction, especially for youth and seniors.
“This bill is simply asking doctors to give patients a choice,” said McCabe, R-Goldendale. “If parents or caregivers were explained the risks associated with opioid use and were offered alternatives, I think we would see a decline not only in the amount of opioids prescribed, but the number of deaths caused by overdoses, as well.”
In 2016, 694 people in Washington died due to opioid abuse, and opioid overdoses led to more than 1,400 hospitalizations.
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.
The bill’s namesake, Jeremy Wolfe, testified in support of the bill.
“I want to help in any way I can with anybody who’s facing the same problems I went through,” he said.
Wolfe, a former high-school state wrestling champion, was 14 when the doctor first prescribed OxyContin and Vicodin for his knee injury. His addiction to opioids eventually led him to try heroin. He overdosed twice, nearly dying.
Darlene Williamson, Wolfe’s mother, said she would have explored alternative pain management medications had she understood the full risks of taking opioids.
“Had I known when he was young that he would have done what he did, I would have never filled a prescription for him,” she said.
The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the committee.