What Are the New Arizona Opioid Laws?

Lerner & Rowe Injury Attorneys
Arizona electronic prescription laws

After a year-long delay, new Arizona electronic prescription laws went into effect throughout the state on January 1, 2020. All prescribers in Arizona are now mandated to prescribe all schedule II drugs electronically, marking the end of written and printed prescriptions for opioids, stimulants, and other medications with a high potential for abuse.

Arizona is one of several states who have recently transitioned to electronic prescriptions for potentially addictive drugs. E-prescribing, as it is sometimes called, is intended to reduce rates of prescription fraud in an effort to prevent addiction and drug overdoses.  

Read on to find out how Arizona electronic prescription laws may affect you or a loved one. An Arizona prescription errors lawyer may be able to help those who have suffered from opioid addiction, overdose, or neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).   

The Arizona Opioid Emergency Explained

Opioid addiction is a systemic problem throughout the United States, and Arizona is no exception. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reported that for every 100 people in Arizona, there were 61 active opioid prescriptions.

Over-prescribing of powerful painkillers and stimulants led to a 76% increase in opioid-involved deaths in Arizona between 2013 and 2017, and opioids contributed to at least 928 deaths in 2017 alone.

What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), sometimes called neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS), is a complication which affects newborns whose mothers ingested controlled substances such as opioids, benzodiazepines, or certain illicit drugs during pregnancy. 

Often after birth, newborns will exhibit withdrawal symptoms from one or more of these substances. In Arizona, the number of babies born with NAS nearly doubled between 2013 and 2016, with 72 babies per 10,000 births born exhibiting symptoms of NAS. 

NAS often affects babies whose mothers were misusing medications or drugs, but can also affect those who took legitimate medications as prescribed by a doctor either for pain or to treat addiction during pregnancy. 

Less commonly, sick babies who were given certain types of medication shortly after birth may experience withdrawal when these medications are stopped. Ultimately, babies with NAS require lengthier hospital stays and may suffer from medical and social setbacks related to drug withdrawal experienced as an infant. 

What Is the Arizona Opioid Action Plan?

In response to these alarming figures, the government issued a state of emergency and began drafting a statewide Opioid Action Plan. This plan included implementing a mandated Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) and the Opioid Epidemic Act, which created a stronger set of prescribing guidelines for the medical community. 

How Does the PDMP Work in Arizona?

The Arizona State Board of Pharmacy requires medical prescribers and pharmacists to access a patient’s prescription history for the previous 12 months. They can do this by using a centralized database prior to prescribing or dispensing any opioid or benzodiazepine listed as a schedule II, III, or IV drug. After prescribing a new medication in one of these classes, physicians must check the PDMP database quarterly to ensure patient compliance.

What Are Arizona Opioid Prescribing Guidelines?

The Opioid Epidemic Act of 2018 established updated Arizona opioid prescribing guidelines that prioritize both patient safety and effective pain management while helping prevent over-prescribing practices, addiction, and accidental overdoses.  

These guidelines stipulate that doctors should not prescribe more than 3-5 days’ worth of opioids for acute pain, and that they should explore non-opioid medications for patients with acute moderate pain. They also place a dosage limit of 90 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) on opioid prescriptions for most patients, with exceptions for those suffering from documented chronic pain. 

For those who do require long-term treatment of chronic severe pain, prescribers must evaluate the patient every 90 days for signs of functional improvement and substance abuse disorder. They must also document the patient’s informed consent before prescribing opioids, including alternatives for treatment.

What Are Arizona Electronic Prescription Laws?

The Arizona Opioid Action Plan also resulted in new Arizona electronic prescription laws passed by House Bill 2075. The law mandates electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS), including all schedule II substances. 

This means that handwritten or printed prescriptions will no longer be valid at Arizona pharmacies in 2020 and beyond. The law aims to reduce instances of prescription fraud, and in conjunction with the PDMP, prevent doctor shopping by those with substance abuse disorders.

Although the Arizona government officially terminated the state of emergency regarding opioids in 2018, just how effectively Arizona electronic prescription laws will reduce opioid abuse remains to be seen. In the meantime, addiction prevention organizations continue to expand their resources as addiction, overdoses, and drug DUIs continue to destroy lives.

Legal Action Against Drug Manufacturers

In 2019, a lawsuit was brought by the state of Oklahoma against Johnson & Johnson regarding Janssen Pharmaceuticals, one of its drug manufacturers. Janssen produced opioids, including fentanyl patches, that were then marketed by Johnson & Johnson on a national scale. 

According to the lawsuit, Janssen company salespeople allegedly coerced doctors into prescribing their opioids by claiming that they were not addictive and by funding articles in medical journals that promoted their products. 

In a landmark decision, the judge ruled in favor of Oklahoma’s claim that Johnson & Johnson’s misleading marketing to medical professionals and consumers regarding its products led to the deaths of over 6,000 Oklahoma residents, in addition to an extraordinary increase in addiction rates, overdoses, and NAS in newborns.  

The state, which originally sought reparations in the amount of $17.5 billion, was ultimately awarded $465 million. The case represented just one of as many as 2,000 jurisdictions with pending opioid legal cases and set a precedent for the influx of litigation that is likely to follow.

How Our Opioid Addiction Lawyers Can Help

Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys supports the new Arizona electronic prescription laws for controlled substances like opioids. Our legal team also upholds that drug manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson, in addition to the doctors who over-prescribe addictive narcotics, should be held responsible for their negligent and reckless behavior.

If you or a loved one has suffered from opioid addiction, overdose, or NAS after being prescribed one of these controlled substances, contact Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys today to find out if you are eligible to receive compensation. We offer free consultations to review the details of your case.

Call our Phoenix office at 602-977-1900 , our Tucson office at 520-977-1900 , or toll-free statewide at 844-977-1900 . You can also speak to an online representative right now using our LiveChat service, or submit your case details from the comfort of your home 24/7.  

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.