Vermont Governor Pushes to Limit Prescription Painkillers to Combat Opioid Epidemic

PHOTO: Hydrocodone pills, also known as Vicodin, shown at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt., Feb. 19, 2013. PlayToby Talbot/AP Photo
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The governor of Vermont announced Wednesday a proposal to limit the number of painkillers prescribed in an effort to combat the crippling opioid epidemic that has devastated the state in recent years.

“Vermont, and the rest of America, will not get a handle on the opiate and heroin addiction crisis until we confront head-on the source of the problem: FDA-approved opiates that are handed out like candy,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a statement.

“Vermont doctors and providers have been on the leading edge of curbing the irrational exuberance with which opiates are handed out. These proposed limits will solidify that progress and help Vermont continue to lead the nation when it comes to combating this crisis,” Shumlin added.

Earlier this year, the governor went after the FDA and pharmaceutical industry in his State of the State address, saying Oxycontin "lit the match that ignited America's opiate and heroin addiction crisis."

"Just a few months ago, the FDA approved Oxycontin for kids. You can’t make this stuff up. The $11 billion a year opiate industry in America knows no shame," Shumlin said, adding that "opiate addiction is the one thing that could destroy Vermont as we know it."

The proposal, which could be official by December, sets legal limits on the number of opioids that may be prescribed. It also requires prescription providers to discuss risks, provide an education sheet to the patient and receive an informed consent for all first-time opioid prescriptions.

"We must flip the presumption that a patient needs opioids to manage pain. The rule allows doctors to make decisions with their patients, while requiring them to consider other treatments before opioids are prescribed, rather than as a last resort. And when opioids are prescribed, they can be prescribed for as much as a patient needs -- but not more than they need," the state's health commissioner, Dr. Harry Chen, said in a statement.

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