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CHAPTER 21

REGULATIONS GOVERNING PRESCRIBING OF OPIOIDS AND BUPRENORPHINE

Part I
General Provisions

18VAC85-21-10. Applicability.

A. This chapter shall apply to doctors of medicine, osteopathic medicine, and podiatry and to physician assistants.

B. This chapter shall not apply to:

1. The treatment of acute or chronic pain related to (i) cancer, (ii) a patient in hospice care, or (iii) a patient in palliative care;

2. The treatment of acute or chronic pain during an inpatient hospital admission or in a nursing home or an assisted living facility that uses a sole source pharmacy; or

3. A patient enrolled in a clinical trial as authorized by state or federal law.

18VAC85-21-20. Definitions.

The following words and terms when used in this chapter shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

"Acute pain" means pain that occurs within the normal course of a disease or condition or as the result of surgery for which controlled substances may be prescribed for no more than three months.

"Board" means the Virginia Board of Medicine.

"Chronic pain" means nonmalignant pain that goes beyond the normal course of a disease or condition for which controlled substances may be prescribed for a period greater than three months.

"Controlled substance" means drugs listed in The Drug Control Act (§ 54.1-3400 et seq. of the Code of Virginia) in Schedules II through IV.

"FDA" means the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"MME" means morphine milligram equivalent.

"Prescription Monitoring Program" means the electronic system within the Department of Health Professions that monitors the dispensing of certain controlled substances.

"SAMHSA" means the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Part II
Management of Acute Pain

18VAC85-21-30. Evaluation of the acute pain patient.

A. Nonpharmacologic and non-opioid treatment for pain shall be given consideration prior to treatment with opioids. If an opioid is considered necessary for the treatment of acute pain, the practitioner shall give a short-acting opioid in the lowest effective dose for the fewest possible days.

B. Prior to initiating treatment with a controlled substance containing an opioid for a complaint of acute pain, the prescriber shall perform a history and physical examination appropriate to the complaint, query the Prescription Monitoring Program as set forth in § 54.1-2522.1of the Code of Virginia, and conduct an assessment of the patient's history and risk of substance abuse.

18VAC85-21-40. Treatment of acute pain with opioids.

A. Initiation of opioid treatment for patients with acute pain shall be with short-acting opioids.

1. A prescriber providing treatment for acute pain shall not prescribe a controlled substance containing an opioid in a quantity that exceeds a seven-day supply as determined by the manufacturer's directions for use, unless extenuating circumstances are clearly documented in the medical record. This shall also apply to prescriptions of a controlled substance containing an opioid upon discharge from an emergency department.

2. An opioid prescribed as part of treatment for a surgical procedure shall be for no more than 14 consecutive days in accordance with manufacturer's direction and within the immediate perioperative period, unless extenuating circumstances are clearly documented in the medical record.

B. Initiation of opioid treatment for all patients shall include the following:

1. The practitioner shall carefully consider and document in the medical record the reasons to exceed 50 MME/day.

2. Prior to exceeding 120 MME/day, the practitioner shall document in the medical record the reasonable justification for such doses or refer to or consult with a pain management specialist.

3. Naloxone shall be prescribed for any patient when risk factors of prior overdose, substance abuse, doses in excess of 120 MME/day, or concomitant benzodiazepine is present.

C. Due to a higher risk of fatal overdose when opioids are prescribed with benzodiazepines, sedative hypnotics, carisoprodol, and tramadol, the prescriber shall only co-prescribe these substances when there are extenuating circumstances and shall document in the medical record a tapering plan to achieve the lowest possible effective doses if these medications are prescribed.

D. Buprenorphine is not indicated for acute pain in the outpatient setting, except when a prescriber who has obtained a SAMHSA waiver is treating pain in a patient whose primary diagnosis is the disease of addiction.

18VAC85-21-50. Medical records for acute pain.

The medical record shall include a description of the pain, a presumptive diagnosis for the origin of the pain, an examination appropriate to the complaint, a treatment plan, and the medication prescribed or administered to include the date, type, dosage, and quantity prescribed or administered.

Part III
Management of Chronic Pain

18VAC85-21-60. Evaluation of the chronic pain patient.

A. Prior to initiating management of chronic pain with a controlled substance containing an opioid, a medical history and physical examination, to include a mental status examination, shall be performed and documented in the medical record, including:

1. The nature and intensity of the pain;

2. Current and past treatments for pain;

3. Underlying or coexisting diseases or conditions;

4. The effect of the pain on physical and psychological function, quality of life, and activities of daily living;

5. Psychiatric, addiction, and substance abuse history of the patient and any family history of addiction or substance abuse;

6. A urine drug screen or serum medication level;

7. A query of the Prescription Monitoring Program as set forth in § 54.1-2522.1 of the Code of Virginia;

8. An assessment of the patient's history and risk of substance abuse; and

9. A request for prior applicable records.

B. Prior to initiating opioid treatment for chronic pain, the practitioner shall discuss with the patient the known risks and benefits of opioid therapy and the responsibilities of the patient during treatment to include securely storing the drug and properly disposing of any unwanted or unused drugs. The practitioner shall also discuss with the patient an exit strategy for the discontinuation of opioids in the event they are not effective.

18VAC85-21-70. Treatment of chronic pain with opioids.

A. Nonpharmacologic and non-opioid treatment for pain shall be given consideration prior to treatment with opioids.

B. In initiating and treating with an opioid, the practitioner shall:

1. Carefully consider and document in the medical record the reasons to exceed 50 MME/day;

2. Prior to exceeding 120 MME/day, the practitioner shall document in the medical record the reasonable justification for such doses or refer to or consult with a pain management specialist.

3. Prescribe naloxone for any patient when risk factors of prior overdose, substance abuse, doses in excess of 120 MME/day, or concomitant benzodiazepine is present; and

4. Document the rationale to continue opioid therapy every three months.

C. Buprenorphine may be prescribed or administered for chronic pain in formulation and dosages that are FDA-approved for that purpose.

D. Due to a higher risk of fatal overdose when opioids, including buprenorphine, are given with other opioids, benzodiazepines, sedative hypnotics, carisoprodol, and tramadol, the prescriber shall only co-prescribe these substances when there are extenuating circumstances and shall document in the medical record a tapering plan to achieve the lowest possible effective doses of these medications if prescribed.

E. The practitioner shall regularly evaluate for opioid use disorder and shall initiate specific treatment for opioid use disorder, consult with an appropriate health care provider, or refer the patient for evaluation and treatment if indicated.

18VAC85-21-80. Treatment plan for chronic pain.

A. The medical record shall include a treatment plan that states measures to be used to determine progress in treatment, including pain relief and improved physical and psychosocial function, quality of life, and daily activities.

B. The treatment plan shall include further diagnostic evaluations and other treatment modalities or rehabilitation that may be necessary depending on the etiology of the pain and the extent to which the pain is associated with physical and psychosocial impairment.

C. The prescriber shall document in the medical record the presence or absence of any indicators for medication misuse, abuse, or diversion and shall take appropriate action.

18VAC85-21-90. Informed consent and agreement for treatment for chronic pain.

A. The practitioner shall document in the medical record informed consent, to include risks, benefits, and alternative approaches, prior to the initiation of opioids for chronic pain.

B. There shall be a written treatment agreement signed by the patient in the medical record that addresses the parameters of treatment, including those behaviors that will result in referral to a higher level of care, cessation of treatment, or dismissal from care.

C. The treatment agreement shall include notice that the practitioner will query and receive reports from the Prescription Monitoring Program and permission for the practitioner to:

1. Obtain urine drug screens or serum medication levels when requested; and

2. Consult with other prescribers or dispensing pharmacists for the patient.

D. Expected outcomes shall be documented in the medical record including improvement in pain relief and function or simply in pain relief. Limitations and side effects of chronic opioid therapy shall be documented in the medical record.

18VAC85-21-100. Opioid therapy for chronic pain.

A. The practitioner shall review the course of pain treatment and any new information about the etiology of the pain and the patient's state of health at least every three months.

B. Continuation of treatment with opioids shall be supported by documentation of continued benefit from such prescribing. If the patient's progress is unsatisfactory, the practitioner shall assess the appropriateness of continued use of the current treatment plan and consider the use of other therapeutic modalities.

C. The practitioner shall check the Prescription Monitoring Program at least every three months after the initiation of treatment.

D. The practitioner shall order and review a urine drug screen or serum medication levels at the initiation of chronic pain management and at least every three months for the first year of treatment and at least every six months thereafter.

E. The practitioner shall regularly evaluate for opioid use disorder and shall initiate specific treatment for opioid use disorder, consult with an appropriate health care provider, or refer the patient for evaluation for treatment if indicated.

18VAC85-21-110. Additional consultations.

A. When necessary to achieve treatment goals, the prescriber shall refer the patient for additional evaluation and treatment.

B. When a prescriber makes the diagnosis of opioid use disorder, treatment for opioid use disorder shall be initiated or the patient shall be referred for evaluation and treatment.

18VAC85-21-120. Medical records for chronic pain.

The prescriber shall keep current, accurate, and complete records in an accessible manner readily available for review to include:

1. The medical history and physical examination;

2. Past medical history;

3. Applicable records from prior treatment providers or any documentation of attempts to obtain those records;

4. Diagnostic, therapeutic, and laboratory results;

5. Evaluations and consultations;

6. Treatment goals;

7. Discussion of risks and benefits;

8. Informed consent and agreement for treatment;

9. Treatments;

10. Medications (including date, type, dosage, and quantity prescribed and refills);

11. Patient instructions; and

12. Periodic reviews.

Part IV
Prescribing of Buprenorphine for Addiction Treatment

18VAC85-21-130. General provisions pertaining to prescribing of buprenorphine for addiction treatment.

A. Practitioners engaged in office-based opioid addiction treatment with buprenorphine shall have obtained a SAMHSA waiver and the appropriate U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration registration.

B. Practitioners shall abide by all federal and state laws and regulations governing the prescribing of buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

C. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners who have obtained a SAMHSA waiver shall only prescribe buprenorphine for opioid addiction pursuant to a practice agreement with a waivered doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine.

D. Practitioners engaged in medication-assisted treatment shall either provide counseling in their practice or refer the patient to a mental health service provider, as defined in § 54.1-2400.1 of the Code of Virginia, who has the education and experience to provide substance abuse counseling. The practitioner shall document provision of counseling or referral in the medical record.

18VAC85-21-140. Patient assessment and treatment planning for addiction treatment.

A. A practitioner shall perform and document an assessment that includes a comprehensive medical and psychiatric history, substance abuse history, family history and psychosocial supports, appropriate physical examination, urine drug screen, pregnancy test for women of childbearing age and ability, a check of the Prescription Monitoring Program, and, when clinically indicated, infectious disease testing for human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis.

B. The treatment plan shall include the practitioner's rationale for selecting medication-assisted treatment, patient education, written informed consent, how counseling will be accomplished, and a signed treatment agreement that outlines the responsibilities of the patient and the prescriber.

18VAC85-21-150. Treatment with buprenorphine for addiction.

A. Buprenorphine without naloxone (buprenorphine mono-product) shall not be prescribed except:

1. When a patient is pregnant;

2. When converting a patient from methadone or buprenorphine mono-product to buprenorphine containing naloxone for a period not to exceed seven days; or

3. In formulations other than tablet form for indications approved by the FDA.

B. Buprenorphine mono-product tablets may be administered directly to patients in federally licensed opioid treatment programs. With the exception of those conditions listed in subsection A of this section, only the buprenorphine product containing naloxone shall be prescribed or dispensed for use off site from the program.

C. The evidence for the decision to use buprenorphine mono-product shall be fully documented in the medical record.

D. Due to a higher risk of fatal overdose when buprenorphine is prescribed with other opioids, benzodiazepines, sedative hypnotics, carisoprodol, and tramadol, the prescriber shall only co-prescribe these substances when there are extenuating circumstances and shall document in the medical record a tapering plan to achieve the lowest possible effective doses if these medications are prescribed.

E. Prior to starting medication-assisted treatment, the practitioner shall perform a check of the Prescription Monitoring Program.

F. During the induction phase, except for medically indicated circumstances as documented in the medical record, patients should be started on no more than eight milligrams of buprenorphine per day. The patient shall be seen by the prescriber at least once a week.

G. During the stabilization phase, the prescriber shall increase the daily dosage of buprenorphine in safe and effective increments to achieve the lowest dose that avoids intoxication, withdrawal, or significant drug craving.

H. Practitioners shall take steps to reduce the chances of buprenorphine diversion by using the lowest effective dose, appropriate frequency of office visits, pill counts, and checks of the Prescription Monitoring Program. The practitioner shall also require urine drug screens or serum medication levels at least every three months for the first year of treatment and at least every six months thereafter.

I. Documentation of the rationale for prescribed doses exceeding 16 milligrams of buprenorphine per day shall be placed in the medical record. Dosages exceeding 24 milligrams of buprenorphine per day shall not be prescribed.

J. The practitioner shall incorporate relapse prevention strategies into counseling or assure that they are addressed by a mental health service provider, as defined in § 54.1-2400.1 of the Code of Virginia, who has the education and experience to provide substance abuse counseling.

18VAC85-21-160. Special populations in addiction treatment.

A. Pregnant women shall be treated with the buprenorphine mono-product, usually 16 milligrams per day or less.

B. Patients younger than the age of 16 years shall not be prescribed buprenorphine for addiction treatment unless such treatment is approved by the FDA.

C. The progress of patients with chronic pain shall be assessed by reduction of pain and functional objectives that can be identified, quantified, and independently verified.

D. Practitioners shall (i) evaluate patients with medical comorbidities by history, physical exam, appropriate laboratory studies and (ii) be aware of interactions of buprenorphine with other prescribed medications.

E. Practitioners shall not undertake buprenorphine treatment with a patient who has psychiatric comorbidities and is not stable. A patient who is determined by the prescriber to be psychiatrically unstable shall be referred for psychiatric evaluation and treatment prior to initiating medication-assisted treatment.

18VAC85-21-170. Medical records for opioid addiction treatment.

A. Records shall be timely, accurate, legible, complete, and readily accessible for review.

B. The treatment agreement and informed consent shall be maintained in the medical record.

C. Confidentiality requirements of 42 CFR, Part 2 shall be followed.

D. Compliance with 18VAC85-20-27, which prohibits willful or negligent breach of confidentiality or unauthorized disclosure of confidential Prescription Monitoring Program information, shall be maintained.