Colorado Unveils New Weapon in Fight Against Prescription Drug Abuse

By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D., The Health Law Firm

In the United States, Colorado ranks among the highest in prescription drug abuse. Prescribing practices have contributed to both the overuse as well as the illegal use of controlled substances. Recently, the Colorado Medical Board in collaboration with the Colorado Dental Board, Colorado Board of Nursing, Colorado Board of Pharmacy, and the Nurse-Physician Advisory Task Force for Colorado Healthcare, passed a policy for prescribing and dispensing opioids. This is the first time that all four Colorado licensing agencies have worked together to formulate a common policy for health care providers.

The new guidance sets the tone for how complaints involving prescribing and dispensing controlled substances will be viewed by these regulatory boards.

To read the new policy in its entirety, click here.

An Overview of the Prescribing and Dispensing Policy.

The new policy aims to reduce prescription drug abuse by better managing opioid prescribing and dispensing. The policy states that providers working with patients who are prescribed opioids should:

– Follow the policy for prescribing and dispensing opioids;
– Be informed about evidence-based practices for opioid use in health care and risk mitigation;
– Collaborate with the integrated health care team to decrease overprescribing, misuse and abuse of opioids;
– Use the Colorado Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) when initially prescribing medication and with each refill;
– Use caution when dispensing to new or unknown patients, filling weekend or late day prescriptions, and when filling prescriptions issued by a provider far from the location of the pharmacy; and
– Educate patients on appropriate use, storage and disposal of opioids, risks and the potential for diversion.

Red Flags.

The new policy describes certain “red flags” health care providers should look for when prescribing and dispensing opioids. It alludes to certain prescription amounts and types that will likely be considered substandard in the absence of a compelling reason for the prescription. For example, the policy advises opioid doses greater than the equivalent of 120 mg morphine are dangerous. The policy also advises against opioid treatment that exceeds 90 days. It’s suggested that prescribers should consider discontinuing opioid therapy when:

– The underlying painful condition is resolved;
– Intolerable side effects emerge;
– The patient’s quality of life fails to improve;
– Functioning deteriorates; or
– There is aberrant medical use.

Tread Lightly When Prescribing Opioids.

Whether you are a physician, nurse, dentist, pharmacist or other health care provider practicing pain management, you should read the entire policy and strictly follow its guidance. Keep detailed records of your pain patients’ care, including copies of PDMP data. As a professional dealing with pain patients, you should also feel comfortable referring appropriate patients to addiction and pain management specialists at any sign of abuse. Failure to follow the new policy may lead to disciplinary action against your license.

For more tips to protect yourself from being accused of overprescribing, click here for a previous blog.


What do you think of Colorado’s policy for prescribing and dispensing opioids? Do you think this new policy will make an impact on the prescription drug abuse throughout the state? As a health care provider, will you follow the new policy? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact A Lawyer Experienced in the Representation of Health Care Professionals in Pain Management Defense.

The Health Law Firm attorneys represent physicians, pharmacists, nurses, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, health facilities and other health care providers in different cases involving allegations of overprescribing narcotics and pain medications. These include criminal investigations by local police and law enforcement authorities, investigations by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), complaints against professional licenses, and other types of cases. Having attorneys familiar with the medical standards of care and guidelines for prescribing narcotics and having access to expert medical and pharmacy professionals who can testify as expert witnesses in such cases is also crucial. We have represented professionals in administrative investigations and administrative hearings at both the state and federal level.

Call (970) 416-7456 now or visit our website

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is a nurse-attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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