A state law that went into effect on Nov. 1 bans refills on prescription painkillers containing hydrocodone.
Dr. Andrew Revelis with Tulsa Pain Consultants said the measure is a response to some of the issues Oklahoma has had with the abuse of the prescription drugs such as Lortab and Vicodin.
A recent Trust for America's Health report found Oklahoma had the fifth-highest drug mortality rate in the country with the rate of drug-overdose deaths in the state at 19.4 per 100,000 people.
A majority of those deaths are from prescription drugs, according to the report.
"I think both the physicians in the state and the legislators realize this problem has gotten out of control, and it requires a drastic solution to solve the problem," Revelis said.
Patients at Tulsa Pain Consultants are sometimes drug tested to ensure they're taking only the medication prescribed to them and in the proper doses, he said.
Pain medication can be dangerous if inappropriately used or prescribed, he said.
"Just coming in and saying my ankle hurts or my back hurts without having anything to suggest that doesn't necessarily get you a prescription," Revelis said.
Also, a pill isn't the only way to deal with pain, he said.
"We don't want to rely 100 percent on medicine to manage pain," he said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently suggested further tightening of restrictions on prescription painkillers by requiring patients to bring in a prescription for the drugs, instead of allowing providers to call in or fax the prescription.
The new rules could take effect as early as next year.
Dr. William Yarborough, an internal medicine specialist at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, said the new state legislation is well-intentioned but may do little more than inconvenience those who need the medication legitimately.
"I understand the issue with stuff getting on the street and trying to reduce the supply, etc., but I think it is a group of people by the nature of having a chronic, painful condition that sometimes it's a struggle for them to get out once a month," he said. "So yeah, it will be a burden in some cases."
People who want to obtain the drugs illegally can usually find ways to get them, he said.
They can also just turn to other drugs, he said.
"I think people who want to divert drugs, traffic drugs or people who are addicts that need the drugs always find ways around the rules," he said.
A focus on treating addicts would probably do more good than this law, he said.
The law could prevent new addicts, but it won't cure those who are already out there, he said.
"They're still out there," he said. "And they're going to still want the drugs and get the drugs until they can get some treatment and get off the drugs. There should be other approaches to this other than creating new laws."
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378