Exemptions to state laws regulating opioid prescribing for patients with cancer-related pain: A summary

Academic Article

Abstract

  • BACKGROUND: Cancer-related pain is highly prevalent and is commonly treated with prescription opioids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now encourages conservative opioid prescribing in recognition of potential opioid-related risks. However, CDC guidelines have been misapplied to patients with cancer. Recent laws at the state level reflect the CDC's guidance by limiting opioid prescribing. It is unclear whether states exempt cancer-related pain, which may affect cancer pain management. Thus, the objective of this study was to summarize current state-level opioid prescribing laws and exemptions for patients with cancer. METHODS: Two study authors reviewed publicly available state records to identify the most recent opioid prescribing laws and cancer-related exemptions. Documents were required to have the force of law and be enacted at the time of the search (November 2020). RESULTS: Results indicated that 36 states had enacted formal legislation limiting the duration and/or dosage of opioid prescriptions, and this was largely focused on acute pain and/or initial prescriptions. Of these states, 32 (89%) explicitly exempted patients with cancer-related pain from opioid prescribing laws. Exemptions were broadly applied, with few states providing specific guidance for cancer-related pain prescribing. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study indicate that most states recognize the importance of prescription opioids in cancer-related pain management. However, drafting nuanced and clinically relevant opioid legislation is challenging for a heterogenous population. Additionally, current attempts to regulate opioid prescribing by state law may unintentionally undermine patient-centered approaches to pain management. Additional resources are needed to facilitate clarity at the intersection of opioid-related legislation and clinical management for cancer-related pain. LAY SUMMARY: In this review of state-level legislation, current limitations on opioid prescribing are summarized and detailed information is provided on exemptions for patients with cancer. The majority of states have enacted specific dosage and/or duration limitations on opioid prescribing while including broad exemptions for cancer-related pain. Cancer-related pain exemptions are important to include, as is consistent with national and professional guidelines (eg, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). However, these exemptions may also unintentionally undermine patient-centered approaches to pain management. Additional resources, including specific guidance for patients with cancer, are needed to facilitate clarity at the intersection of opioid-related legislation and clinical pain management. ‚Äč.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Cancer  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bulls HW; Bell LF; Orris SR; Goodin BR; Liebschutz JM; Wozniak A; Merlin JS; Schenker Y
  • Start Page

  • 3137
  • End Page

  • 3144
  • Volume

  • 127
  • Issue

  • 17