Pa. medical liability climate improves, governor says

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Pa. medical liability climate improves, governor says – New DEA rule allows extended scripts

Pennsylvania tort reforms helped reduce medical liability claims payouts by the state’s patient compensation fund by 50% between 2003 and 2007, Gov. Edward G. Rendell announced in October.

Key measures enacted under the 2002 Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act have helped decrease the number of case filings, said Rendell.

The law requires attorneys to file lawsuits in the county where the alleged incident occurred and to attach a certificate of merit to each case.

Rendell also noted that competition among medical liability insurers is on the rise, with 57 new companies in the market since 2002. Meanwhile, two of the state’s largest carriers recently filed for rate decreases that await approval from the state insurance department, he added.

Pennsylvania Medical Society officials agreed that the medical liability environment is on the mend.

But the society’s president, Peter S. Lund, MD, an Erie urologist, cautioned more work needs to be done to combat high jury awards. The medical society also warned that most of the new business activity comes from risk retention groups, which might offer less protection than traditional carriers.

New DEA rule allows extended scripts

A new Drug Enforcement Administration rule will allow physicians to write up to three staggered-date prescriptions for Schedule II medications during a single patient encounter. Organized medicine groups welcomed the rule, which takes effect this month, because it reversed the DEA’s previous ban on doctors’ writing “do not fill until …” prescriptions for medications such as opioid analgesics that fall under Schedule II.

AMA Trustee Rebecca J. Patchin, MD, said in a statement that the change will help patients avoid running out of drugs that help them manage their chronic pain. The new rule, she added, “will give patients better access to the prescription drugs they need and continue to minimize the risks controlled substances pose to public health and safety.”

Under the rule, patients still can receive a 90-day prescription for Schedule II drugs when it is medically appropriate.
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