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TDH Issues Release re New Dispensing Limits on Opioids and Benzodiazepines

This morning, the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) issued the following Media Release regarding the state’s new law limiting dispensing of opioids and benzodiazepines, which went into effect October 1, 2013. The Tennessee Pharmacists Association (TPA) is passing along the Release to help pharmacists whose patients who may refer to the release (also found online at [[]]). Details about the new law were emailed to TPA members on September 9 and September 26.


New Law Restricts Amount of Some Powerful Drugs that Can Be Dispensed in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Effective this month, under a new Tennessee law, prescriptions for opioid pain medicines and benzodiazepine medicines may not be dispensed in Tennessee in quantities exceeding a 30-day supply. The new limits apply to all dispensers of these medications, including pharmacies, dispensaries and mail-order programs located either in or out of Tennessee.”The law to limit the dispensing of some medications, which went into effect Oct. 1, is part of a statewide effort to reduce problems associated with misuse of these powerful drugs,” said Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, PhD. “It has potential to reduce the quantities of these medications available for abuse or overdose.”

The dispensing limits law is the second major initiative started this year to impact drug misuse. In April, medical professionals in Tennessee were required to start checking the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database before prescribing in most cases. The database is designed to help ensure the best prescribing decisions are made for every patient, resulting in fewer people becoming dependent on pain medicines.

“Dependence or addiction to prescription medicines is a serious behavioral health condition, but it is also treatable,” said E. Douglas Varney, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “Tennessee residents who need help with a drug problem may call the Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789 or go online to to learn about treatment and recovery services available in their area. If you are unclear if your medication may be impacted by this new law, please speak with your prescriber or pharmacist for additional details.”

The new limit on the amount of certain drugs that can be dispensed was established by state law Public Chapter 430, Section 4, Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 53-11-308(e).

Examples of opioids and benzodiazepines which are now limited include:

Generic NameTrade Name
morphineMS Contin®
oxycodoneOxycontin®, Percocet®

Generic Name Trade Name hydrocodone Lortab® codeine morphine MS Contin® oxycodone Oxycontin®, Percocet® hydromorphone Exalgo® oxymorphone Opana® fentanyl methadone alprazolam Xanax® diazepam Valium® lorazepam Ativan®

The above list is provided as an example; other drugs are also impacted the new law. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has placed the affected powerful drugs into Schedules II, III, IV or V according to their potential risk for abuse and addiction. Those different schedule levels impact prescriptions as follows:

  • Prescriptions for medicines in Schedules III, IV or V which have been written for greater than a 30-day supply may be filled, refilled or partially filled in 30-day increments, for up to a six-month period.
  • Current DEA law does not permit refilling of Schedule II prescription medicines; therefore, all Schedule II prescriptions for opioid prescription pain medicines may not be dispensed in quantities greater than a 30-day supply. Each 30-day supply of a Schedule II opioid prescription pain medicine requires a new prescription.