Tennessee's Medicaid program is trying to make it easier for patients to get prescription drugs that help treat opioid addiction. The moves come after years of restricting access to the medication because of concerns about abuse and diversion.
Purdue Pharma's sales reps in Tennessee were pushing OxyContin even harder as the high-powered opioid came under more legal scrutiny in recent years. That's among hundreds of claims made by the Tennessee Attorney General in a lawsuit filed in May and made public Thursday.
Even asking how best to wean drug abusers off opioids can raise hackles. Addiction specialists have straddled a philosophical divide over the use of pharmaceuticals in the process. But the side advocating against medication assisted treatment is shrinking in Tennessee and nationwide.
Overdose deaths among African-Americans in Tennessee have roughly doubled since 2012. Fatalities from opioids are still growing among whites in the state, but deaths among blacks are surging twice as fast.
Tennessee doctors are getting a crash course in the state's new restrictions on opioids ahead of the law taking effect July 1. Physicians are concerned about new liability since the prescribing rules do away with much of their discretion.
The finer points of a bill to heavily restrict opioid prescribing came down to the final hours of the legislative session, with a hang-up over medical coding nearly killing Gov. Bill Haslam's signature legislation for the year.
Doctors in Tennessee are putting patients on fewer addictive painkillers. An annual survey finds that opioid prescriptions dropped 8.9 percent in Tennessee last year, but the state still stands out for its high rate of prescribing.