With Arkansas, Half the States Now Limit Painkiller Prescriptions

by | December 12, 2017

By Christine Vestal

Arkansas has joined at least 24 other states in adopting rules limiting the number and strength of opioid painkillers doctors can prescribe. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who urged the state medical board to adopt the regulations, called the move an important step in curtailing the “escalating danger” of opioid abuse in the state.

The restrictions, based on 2016 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, require doctors to take a variety of precautions when prescribing highly addictive opioid painkillers and limit prescriptions for acute pain from an injury or surgery to a seven-day supply.

As in other states, Arkansas’ new limits do not apply to patients with cancer, in hospice or palliative care, or who are being treated in hospitals or during emergencies.

Nationwide, the number of prescriptions for highly addictive opioid painkillers dropped 10 percent between 2013 and 2016, due to greater awareness of the dangers of painkillers, as well as the CDC’s guidelines and state drug monitoring systems.

Overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers have quadrupled since 1999, and so have sales of the drugs. From 1999 to 2015, more than 183,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids. 

According to retail data collected from pharmacies, Arkansas has one of the highest per capita opioid consumption rates in the nation.

Stateline | Nonpartisan, Nonprofit News Service of the Pew Center on the States | editor@stateline.org  |  @pewstates