New Jersey

Proposed NJ Law Requires Doctors to Talk With Patients About Drug Addiction

New Jersey wants doctors to discuss addiction with patients when prescribing certain medications.

A measure under consideration in the state Legislature would require physicians to inform patients about the addictive properties of opioid drugs, which, when abused, can lead to heroin addiction. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Joseph Vitale, said mandating a conversation is good public policy.

"You know. it's not a huge waste of anyone's time to have that conversation, and we're not trying to instruct doctors how to practice medicine," said Vitale, D-Middlesex. "We just think that patients ought to be informed of all the information that's out there and be forward about potential consequences."

The idea came from a New Jersey couple whose son became addicted to opioid drugs after having surgery, said Vitale. He later died from a heroin overdose.

However, many New Jersey physicians are bristling at the idea. Some say lawmakers mandating a conversation about drug addiction goes too far toward telling doctors how to practice medicine. Others are concerned that such discussions may scare patients out of taking the drug, even though it may be the best treatment.

Claudine Leonie, who directs government affairs for the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, said many doctors already have conversations with their patients about addictive medications. She worries that a law will make these discussions meaningless.

"We want to make it practical. We want to make it functional, practical and useful," said Leonie. "So just randomly mandating a discussion, I don't think, will have the impact that they're intended to have."

Physicians don't object to discussing potential dangers of addictive medications with patients, Leonie said, but want to do so at their own discretion.

The legislation is part of a 21-bill package sponsored by Vitale addressing elements of drug prevention, education, treatment and recovery in the state.

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