Last year Washington State passed a new law sponsored by Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, that requires physician assistants, nurse practitioners, osteopathic physicians, podiatrists, and dentists to refer patients who are prescribed large quantities of prescription opiates to pain-management specialists.

The law went into effect July 1st of this year for medical providers (such as those previously listed), excluding doctors and physician assistants, and will go into effect for those two groups January 1, 2012.

The idea behind the law is to help the patients and medical providers assess whether or not additional methods of treating chronic pain are necessary for the patient as well as deter drug misuse and abuse and overdose deaths. Additional treatment methods include chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, and improving diet and exercise.

Cancer patients, patients with post-surgical pain, and those prescribed opiates for immediate treatment of an injury are exempt from the law.

Patients with a history of drug abuse or mental illness must sign a “treatment agreement” with their physician, thereby agreeing to random drug tests, and that the physician to contact law enforcement if they suspect any illegal activity on the patient’s part.

One of the concerns about the new law, voiced by Dr. Robert Djergaian medical director of a new pain-rehabilitation program at PeaceHealth, is that there are not enough pain-management specialists in Washington State (where 1.7 million people report issues related to pain) to meet the demand of the new law. He also believes it is unclear how specifically the law will increase resource awareness and accessibility for alternative pain-management treatments.

Click here to view the complete article by Amanda Waldroupe, Special to The Oregonian.

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