The legislature of Oklahoma is taking a new look at the state’s opioid prescription laws for the first time in three years. In a Nov. 1 video meeting, the legislature examined the testimony of advocates, scientific studies and other arguments for potentially rolling back the strict measures of the 2018 law.

When Senate Bill 1446 was enacted in October 2018, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranked Oklahoma the sixth highest rate of opioid prescriptions dispensed per capita. Opponents of the bill were concerned that the bill could end up hurting patients who suffer from chronic pain.

SB 1446 limited initial opioid prescription terms and required opioid providers to take extra measures when their prescribed dosages exceeded certain thresholds. Some patients who had prescriptions above the legal thresholds before SB 1446 took place told Oklahoma authorities that they had been “fired by their physician” after the bill passed.

The OK House Alcohol, Tobacco and Controlled Substances Committee heard from several patients living with chronic pain who wished to present their stories. Other presenters in the video meeting included Dr. Steven Drabek, a family medicine and palliative care specialist in Oklahoma City, the Haskell County Sheriff Tim Turner, and an advocate and pain sufferer, Tamera Stewart. 

Rep. John Talley, R-Stillwater, who requested the interim study regarding the effects of the “rapid reduction of opioid prescribing” on pain treatments for Oklahomans, spoke on behalf of reexamining the contents and effects of SB 1446.

According to Tulsa World, Talley said, “A few years back, we had a knee jerk reaction to (reports of) overdoses, and it was very easy to blame everything on the overdoses to opioids.” Talley stated that because SB 1446 was so hastily implemented, “we cut off a lot of the good, positive effects of opioids that a lot of people need to function.”

Talley now feels that SB 1446 may need to be rolled back for the benefit of patients. Talley stated, “We pretty much threw out the baby with the bath water, saying ‘everybody that uses opioids is bad or needy or addicted,’ and that’s just not true.”