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Bill limiting opioid prescriptions for hurt workers passes North Dakota House

The bill would limit the opioids prescribed to workers through North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance to 90 "morphine milligram equivalents" per day. Prescriptions would also be limited to seven days in the first 30 days of treatment, and patients would have to travel to their medical provider in-person to renew a prescription. The bill makes exceptions for cancer treatments, hospice care, nursing home care and drug abuse treatments.

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BISMARCK — The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill that would limit how many opioid-based painkillers injured workers can receive in a single prescription.

Lawmakers in the lower house voted 64-26 to approve House Bill 1139 on Wednesday, Jan. 27, after a back-and-forth discussion. The proposal, sponsored by Bismarck Republican Rep. George Keiser, will now go onto the Senate when the chambers exchange legislation next month.

The bill would limit the opioids prescribed to workers through North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance to 90 "morphine milligram equivalents" per day. Prescriptions would also be limited to seven days in the first 30 days of treatment, and patients would have to travel to their medical provider in-person to renew a prescription. The bill makes exceptions for cancer treatments, hospice care, nursing home care and drug abuse treatments.

Supporters of the bill said the measure is a step toward preventing opioid addiction in the state. The opioid epidemic has hit the Midwest hard in recent decades, and North Dakota reported 36 opioid overdose deaths in 2018, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse .

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The North Dakota House of Representatives approved House Bill 1139 on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Screenshot via North Dakota Legislature

"We want to get the injured workers the pain medication they need, but let's not now make it where it's a lifetime addiction," said Rep. Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson. "That would make their lives worse."

Several opponents of the bill said it takes discretion away from doctors and causes unnecessary hardship for hurt workers. Rep. Marvin Nelson, D-Rolla, said the bill would require people in pain to travel long distances to get much-needed drugs, noting that western North Dakota has a lack of painkiller-prescribing doctors.

"We want to limit opioids, but what we're doing here is telling the worker to go out on the streets and buy some street drugs to get him through the pain," Nelson said.

hb1139 by Jeremy Turley on Scribd

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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