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Medical board approves opioid changes, loosens rules on nurse practitioners

The Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure approved changes to its new set of opioid regulations and another to regulations governing collaborative agreements with doctors and nurse practitioners.

At its monthly meeting on Thursday, board members voted unanimously to approve a change to the opioid prescription regulations that the board unveiled in December that would reduce the amount of testing for other drugs required for patients with opioid prescriptions.

A clarification to rules governing the frequency that physicians can make opioid prescriptions for patients. Under the changes, patients can get up to 20 days worth of opioid medication and, if their doctor sees a clinical need for it, receive another 20 day prescription after the first expires.

The board also voted unanimously to approve changes to regulations governing the collaborative agreements between a nurse practitioner and a physician. Before, a nurse practitioner had to practice within a 75-mile radius of their supervising physician, who reviewed their records and met with them quarterly.

The updated regulation will allow a nurse practitioner to have a collaborative agreement with any doctor within the state without a radius requirement. The tether rule, as it's called, was changed in 2016 from a 15-mile requirement to 75 miles.

There were several bills in the Legislature that would've eliminated the collaboration requirement for nurse practitioners with 3,600 hours of clinical practice experience, but all of them died on Tuesday's deadline. Twenty two states don't require any collaborative agreement between nurse practitioners and a supervising physician.

Originally, the updated opioid regulations required a prescribing physician to get a patient with an opioid prescription a drug screen for other drugs whenever a prescription for chronic non-cancer/non-terminal pain was written. The updated regulations loosen this requirement to three times per year for patient drug tests.

The updated opioid regulations are headed to the secretary of state and to the state's new Occupational Licensing Board, which was created by legislation last year and meets quarterly. If the secretary of state and occupational licensing board approve the new regulations in the next few months, they will put more stringent restrictions on how Mississippi doctors can prescribe potentially addictive opioid medications for pain.

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