Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signs opioid bill mandating stricter medication regulations

DUBUQUE, Iowa--  In light of the national opioid epidemic, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill in to law Monday, May 14 to better regulate prescribed medications in the state.

The new opioid law requires prescription prescribers and pharmacies to register with the Iowa prescription drug monitoring program.

The program created in the early 2000’s keeps a record of the amount and type of opioids prescribed to a patient. Before the new law registering to the database was recommended but not mandatory, now doctors and pharmacists have to check the PMP before handing out a powerful pain medication.

“This helps with doctor shopping, overprescribing (opioids). It mandates all the prescribers to use the prescription monitoring program which is a great tool to use,” says Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who signed the bill at the Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque.

“I think it was really difficult to track if someone was seeing another physician or going to another pharmacy or going to another facility thus getting multiple prescription for opioids,” says the hospital’s Director of Psychiatric Services, Joyce McDermott.

The new law also stops doctors from writing prescriptions for opioids by hand. Starting 2020 everything will be sent to a pharmacist electronically.

The opioid law also includes Good Samaritan Immunity to a person who calls 911 to report an overdose. The caller will not face charges if they are also involved with drug related activity. However, the immunity excludes convicted drug dealers and repeat offenders.

Although lawmakers say they are happy to see the progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic some say more still needs to be done.

“Something that was missing from the legislation that some of us believed needed to be a part of it was what we call a needle exchange…,” says Iowa State Senator, Pam Jochum from Dubuque.

Reynolds says she too would like to see the needle exchange program included in the legislation, however more research was needed. She hopes lawmakers can continue to work on a statewide needle exchange program during the next legislative session.

The new opioid law goes into effect next February, but doctors and pharmacist will not be able to fully implement the electronic prescriptions until 2020.