CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Medicaid Agency and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina will limit how many opioids doctors can prescribe to patients in some cases.
This comes after Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order in December establishing an emergency response team to battle the opioid crisis in South Carolina.
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina will enact what it's calling a Opioid Management Program on April 1 where it will limit short-acting opioid prescriptions to seven days.
On May 1, the South Carolina Medicaid Agency is limiting opioid prescriptions to a five-day supply for acute or post surgery pains.
Physician partner with Roper St. Francis. Dr. Nichole Watson is in support of the upcoming changes.
"As people who prescribe opioids to our patients and manage chronic pain on a regular basis, we already realized there was a problem and we started to peel back on the way opiods are prescribed,"said Watson who is with Parkwest Family Practice.
In 2016, 550 people died in South Carolina from a drug overdose with prescription opioid drugs, according to DHEC.
"There are alternate ways of handling pain and if we can sort of prevent the creation of physical dependence on opioids we can make great progress," Watson said.
He said the goal is to manage pain and not to get rid of all of it.
Some cases where restrictions might apply include medication prescribed for car accident related injuries, broken bones, women after child birth, people who undergo knee replacement surgery and more.
"It takes less than a week to develop a physical dependence to an opioid prescription and we are aware it," Watson said.
There are exceptions to the opioid prescription limitations.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says people with Medicaid with cases of chronic pain, cancer pain, pain related to sickle cell disease, hospice care, palliative care or medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder will have exceptions.
If a prescriber feels it's necessary for a patient to have more opioids they will need to document it on the patient's medical record.
If the requirements aren't followed, Medicaid funds will be taken away for the service where the prescription was issued.
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina says patients undergoing cancer treatment, palliative and end-of-life care wil be exempt from the requirements.