I think we can all agree that there is an opioid crisis in North Carolina and throughout the United States. While we may disagree on the root causes and possible solutions, it’s hard to argue that opioids present a public health emergency. One factor that led to today’s issue involves both misunderstanding and miscommunication (whether willful or otherwise) in the pharmaceutical and medical industries about the drugs’ addictive nature and recommended prescribing. Now, there is widespread misuse of prescription opioids throughout America. In this post, we briefly look at the role of dentists in the opioid crisis.
Dentists have not been immune to the challenges posed by this issue. The ADA, among any number of other organizations and publications, have published articles and resources discussing and analyzing the problem and its impact on the world of dentistry. From patients trying to scam dentists into prescribing these powerful pain killers to arguably over- and unnecessary prescriptions for dental procedures, many dentists have found themselves squarely on the front lines of the opioid battle.
The Stop Act
Here in North Carolina, the General Assembly has in recent years enacted legislation to combat the issue and prevent unnecessary or improper prescriptions coming out of dental offices. In response to a recent governmental call to action, North Carolina passed the “Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention Act.” The Act includes numerous provisions, including some that have only recently become enforceable, namely the North Carolina controlled substances reporting system that became effective July 7, 2021. This database requires all North Carolina dentists to search the database before prescribing certain controlled substances. If the database search turns up no relevant results, they may prescribe but must follow up with reporting the prescription in the system. Further, dentists must check the patient’s profile every three months during the period of prescribing the medication. In addition to online reporting, each patient’s chart must include a record of the database searches. Through these requirements, enforced by audits conducted by NCDHHS, dentists in North Carolina play a statutorily mandated and vital role in fighting this crisis.
To help stop the spread of opioid misuse and improper prescribing in NC, Dentists must comply with the requirements set forth in the STOP Act. For instance, with every new prescription, the prescribing dentist must review the prescription history of the patient, renew the search every three months, and treat any change in medication or dose as a new prescription, in which case the process should start over anew.
Learn More Today
This post does not comprehensively address the requirements of the STOP Act or the interplay between dentists and the opioid crisis. If you are a North Carolina dentist with questions about how best to prescribe opioids safely, contact appropriate agencies and authorities today to learn more. As an example, the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville has an online course that discusses the new procedure in more detail. Access the program here: https://mahec.net/event/65047.
The information herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The information is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter. The above is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Consult your attorney with questions.