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Report: New Wash. law cuts off patient access to painkillers


NEW YORK — A new law in Washington state intended to curb accidental deaths related to opioid painkillers is having some adverse side effects, according to published reports.

The Seattle Times reported that the law has led dozens of clinics and hospitals around the state to refuse to treat pain patients or prescribe drugs like oxycodone due to the financial and regulatory burdens that the law places on them. Meanwhile, the state's Medicaid program encourages patients to use methadone, which, while an effective painkiller, can also be dangerous as it can linger in the bloodstream for days after its effects have worn off, building up and potentially leading to harmful and even deadly side effects. Because most users of methadone are poor, deaths from methadone overdoses tend to be clustered in the poorest areas of the state, the newspaper reported.

The article also included a profile of Charles Passantino, a resident of the Tacoma, Wash., area with diabetes and liver disease who experienced months of pain with no drug treatments after his doctor stopped prescribing oxycodone as he and his wife searched for a Medicaid provider who would write a new prescription.

The law passed 96-1 in the state's House and 36-12 in the Senate, bolstered by testimony from medical experts who cited statistics about accidental deaths from opioids, predictions of $13 million in savings to the state government and anecdotal accounts from its sponsors, state Rep. Jim Moeller and Sen. Karen Keiser, according to the Times.

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