House committee approves Schuitmaker legislation to combat opioid epidemic

LANSING, Mich. — The House Committee on Health Policy on Tuesday advanced a package of bills that would further the state’s efforts against the growing prescription drug and opioid epidemic in Michigan.

“Every community across our state has experienced the devastating effects of prescription drug and opioid abuse,” said Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, who has been the lead in the Senate on several opioid-related issues. “This is not something that we can simply legislate away. It takes diligence and cooperation on every level.”

Because of their direct involvement with the process, Schuitmaker concentrated her legislative efforts on what have come to be known as “doctor shopping” and “pill mills.” As a result, she introduced Senate Bills 166 and 167 to hinder this process and crack down on any collusion between pharmacies and physicians.

“To get to the root of the problem, we need to weed out the bad actors,” she said. “Doctors and pharmacies working together to illegally prescribe medications for a quick buck is a recipe for disaster. These so-called medical professionals clearly do not have the patient’s best interest in mind. They are not only violating the law, but the ethics of the oath they took to become a physician as well.”

These bills would make sure doctors who prescribe Schedule 2 through Schedule 5 controlled substances consult the Michigan Automated Prescription System, or MAPS, prior to doing so. The bills also outline punishment guidelines for those who fail to do so or are negligent.

MAPS was designed to prevent drug diversion by collecting prescription data and loading it into a database made available to all Michigan prescribers. This allows health care professionals to see a full picture of the controlled substances that a patient has received and from which prescriber. A MAPS report could indicate to the physician or health care provider that abuse or doctor shopping may be occurring.

“I, and many others, find it troubling that the number of controlled substances prescribed in Michigan has nearly quadrupled over the past eight years,” Schuitmaker said. “My goal with these bills is to simply make sure doctors have all relevant information regarding a patient’s prescription history and to put an end to the illegal operations that allow opioids to get into the hands of those who do not truly need them.”

SBs 166 and 167 now go before the full House for a vote.