72°F
weather icon Clear

Doctors say Nevada’s new opioid law is causing them pain

It’s been only three days since Nevada’s new opioid prescription law took effect, and doctors already are venting about its impact on their practices.

About 40 physicians, lawyers and others attended a meeting of the state medical and dental boards Wednesday in Las Vegas to express concerns over draft disciplinary rules for doctors who issue illegal, fraudulent, unauthorized or “otherwise inappropriate” prescriptions for pain medications under the law.

Several doctors said the law makes unreasonable paperwork demands, while the proposed regulations don’t specify the types of conduct that could lead to penalties or even the loss of their medical licenses.

“We appreciate the regulation, we appreciate the fact that something is being done to control an enormous problem, but I think as a group we feel it is a bit too broad and has been extended way too far,” Cole Sondrup, a Las Vegas emergency medicine physician, told members of the Nevada State Board of Dental Examiners and the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners.

Under proposed rules, doctors who violate the new Controlled Substance Abuse Prevention Act five times would lose their licenses. The threshold would be lowered in coming years, with three violations resulting in a loss of license by 2020.

Unintended consequences feared

But doctors who attended the meeting complained that the proposed regulations don’t specify what constitutes a violation and expressed concerns that they could be penalized for relatively minor infractions, such as forgetting to pull up a patient’s prescription history, or that an employee could make a mistake.

Doctors also are worried that the threat of discipline will funnel patients from specialists to primary care physicians to pain management clinics, which say they already are inundated.

Dan Laird, a pain management specialist at Flamingo Pain Specialists and a Las Vegas attorney, said in an interview with the Review-Journal that he has a stack of referrals from primary care doctors received over the past two days sitting on his fax machine.

“It will provide further disincentives to take care of chronic-care patients,” Laird said.

Others told the board that they already have lost the trust of longtime patients over new paperwork requirements and the threat of random drug testing at their doctor’s discretion.

“Just the other day, I had a patient tell me point-blank they’re not going to sign the forms, they don’t want to do initial testing, and they would just go to the street to get their narcotics,” said Andrew Pasternak, founder of Silver Sage Center for Family Medicine in Reno and president of the Washoe County Medical Society.

Others complained about the paperwork burden. Sondrup said he took an extra 10 minutes per patient filling out forms this week.

“It is not a quick interview,” he said.

Daniel Burkhead, who runs the Innovative Pain Care Center, has been a supporter of the law, working with the medical board to help answer doctors’ questions ahead of its rollout.

But he acknowledged Wednesday that he too is concerned about its implementation.

“I have some lack of understanding of the law as well, because the law has some internal inconsistencies and ambiguities,” Burkhead said, adding that he’s paid for legal advice to help interpret the law.

“I’m not here to complain about the content of the law, because the law is what it is. … But my practitioners are fearful, and the reason they’re fearful is because of the board’s approach to the penalties imposed,” Burkhead said.

Crowd is unanimous

Others worried the law and proposed regulations will drive doctors considering moving to Nevada to think twice, a concern in a state that faces a severe doctor shortage.

“What resident, in his right mind, would come to Nevada and potentially lose his license over a clerical error, when you could go to 49 other states where it’s not like that?” Laird said.

Shawn McGivney, a primary care physician who holds a private practice in Las Vegas, took an informal vote from the crowd on the proposed regulations: “We suggest you (the board) vote ‘no’ now. … Everyone in agreement?”

He looked around at the quiet crowd and said, “All ‘no.’ One hundred percent ‘no.’ ”

Ed Cousineau, the state medical board’s executive director, said he will discuss with fellow board members rewriting the rules and calling a second workshop after they are completed. He said the regulations would be finalized in late spring at the earliest.

“There’s always going to be unintended consequences,” he said. “We have to basically, as a medical board, follow our directives. AB 474 is now the law, and the interpretation of that is something that’s obviously a big issue.”

Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Nevada gets $3M in settlement for ITT students

Attorney General Aaron Ford announced his office has reached a settlement with Student CU Connect CUSO, a company that offered loans for students attending ITT Tech that Ford called abusive.

Sisolak signs public records reform bill into law

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill that strengthens Nevada’s public records law, making it easier and cheaper for people to get public records and providing for fines if public agencies willfully flout the law.