TAMPA, Fla. -- A new law limiting prescription opioids took effect in Florida on July 1.

  • Physicians able to prescribe limited amount, under certain circumstances
  • Law to protect patients with chronic pain
  • Patients allowed refill in 3 or 7 day increments

It restricts how many painkillers a physician can prescribe to patients with acute or temporary pain.

Now physicians can only prescribe a three-day supply of opioid painkillers to patients with pain following a surgery or minor trauma. If they deem it medically necessary, they can prescribe a seven-day supply.

The law protects patients who have chronic pain and are prescribed an opioid painkiller by their pain management specialist.

Dr. Kazi Hassan of Florida Medical Pain Management says his office has been getting a lot of phone calls from patients trying to make appointments since the law went into effect. He is a pain management specialist who says there are only so many physicians in the Tampa Bay Area who are certified specialized pain doctors.

“It’s going to be painful for every one of us until we navigate how to work through this,” said Dr. Hassan.

Patients could have to wait days, weeks or even months to see a specialist depending on insurance approval and appointment availability.

They can go back to their primary care doctor for refills in three or seven day supply increments but that could get expensive with copays.

“Transitions are always very difficult, and they’re particularly scary for individuals who are highly reliant on their opioids and their medications for pain relief,” said Robert Randolph Butts, a clinical psychologist at Florida Medical Pain Management.

Dr. Hassan and Dr. Butts agree the law is a step in the right direction, but they fear executing it could be difficult.

“The anxiety that it is causing to these patients is enormous,” Hassan said.

Dr. Hassan does not give any patient a prescription during their first visit to the office. They are evaluated and they speak with Dr. Butts to determine the best form of treatment. Often times it’s not a prescription opioid.

Under this law, physicians also much check a database to see the patient’s prescription drug history.