Minnesota doctors face opioid prescribing limits

Published 10:53 pm Friday, November 17, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota task force has set new limits on opioid prescriptions by doctors who participate in the state’s Medicaid program.

The rule was adopted by the state’s Opioid Prescribing Work Group on Thursday but won’t take effect until they’re approved by the state human services commissioner.

Nonsurgical physicians and dentists can have no more than half of their opioid prescriptions exceed 100 morphine milligram equivalents, which is equivalent to about 20 Vicodin or Percocet pills at the typical 5 milligram strength. Surgeons will have a limit of 200 morphine milligram equivalents per outpatient prescription.

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Studies show that many patients can recover from acute pain from surgeries or injuries with small initial doses of opioids, said Dr. Chris Johnson, an Allina Health physician who heads the task force.

“You … don’t need near as much as you think you do,” he said.

Doctors who exceed the new limits for more than half of their patients will receive warnings and undergo training. They could eventually face removal from the Medicaid program if they don’t reduce their dosage amounts.

Medicaid covers about 20 percent of the state’s population.

The limits will only apply to outpatient prescriptions meant to manage short-term or acute pain.

The task force was created in 2015 to deal with a spike in Minnesota residents dying from prescription painkillers. A newspaper review of state death records found that more than 400 deaths were linked to opioids in 2016, more than double the number of deaths in 2006.