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W.Va. lawmakers urged to stem pain pill profits

BECKLEY, W.Va. — A local physician is urging lawmakers to tackle the opioid addiction problem in southern West Virginia by legislating the way doctors can charge patients for prescription painkillers and opioids like Suboxone.

Dr. M.K. Hasan, founding psychiatrist of Raleigh Psychiatric Services in Beckley, said current laws that allow doctors to treat patients on a “cash only” basis create “cash cows” for doctors who are looking to make quick, easy money by prescribing opioids.

 “If you want to start a practice here, and build it up quickly, start writing narcotics,” said Hasan, who is in the process of building a non-opioid drug treatment program at his practice. “ZIP 25801 is one of the highest writers of narcotics prescriptions.”

West Virginia has a higher rate of overdose deaths than Texas and New York City, with statistics of 27 residents per 100,000 succumbing to overdose.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday signed Senate Bill 335, allowing health care providers to prescribe to first-responders and other trained people certain drugs that counteract an opiate overdose. Under the new law, which becomes effective in May, those who prescribe or administer an opioid antagonist in good faith to a person who is overdosing won’t face criminal or civil charges.

Hasan said lawmakers can help stop opioids from entering their communities.

“The biggest supply is coming from physicians,” charged Hasan. “I feel that 50 percent of the problem is created by physicians. Greed plays a big role. The main thing is cash. Cash has to leave the system.”

Hasan explained that Medicaid, a state-subsidized insurance program for low-income residents, pays doctors around $20 per office visit. Medicaid patients who are prescribed Suboxone are also required to have four hours of counseling each month.

By law, pain/opioid clinic doctors may offer patients the option of not charging their insurance providers…


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