NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - State lawmakers are set to take up two big medical issues Monday. One of them concerns the rising number of deaths due to opioids. A local doctor says, it's is an epidemic, that needs to be stopped.
The number of deaths blamed on opioids rises each year.
"I think it's a tremendous problem," Brobson Lutz, M.D., said.
In January, New Orleans city health officials declared a public health advisory because of the increase in opioid use. The situation isn't much different across the country.
Lutz explains, "This is almost unique to the United States, it's my understanding, that maybe 80 percent of the opioids by the pharmaceutical industry are sold in the United States."
Monday, lawmakers will vote on a proposal by Rep. Bernard LeBas to create a commission, solely focused on finding ways to tackle prescription opioid and heroin abuse.
"The legislature is going to see what else they can do to get ahead of this issue and we'll probably see some legislation in upcoming sessions," FOX 8 Political Analyst Mike Sherman, said.
First though, will come the anticipated passage of a bill to expand the use of legalized medical marijuana after emotional testimony last week, from parents of sick children who rely on the drug.
"I'm begging you to please pass this law," mom Michelle Hall said to legislators.
Rep. Reid Falconer, of Mandeville, adds, "Existing FDA drugs are not saving my daughter from seizures. So please offer to us, who are affected by epilepsy, a valuable alternative."
Sherman says the measure is a long time coming.
This puts us right in the middle of the pack, we're nowhere near those Western states where there's recreational marijuana available but we're quickly moving towards identifying diseases where doctors can prescribe medical marijuana," Sherman said.
In fact, the bill will increase the number of diseases that can be legally treated by medical marijuana in the state from three to 10. It would also change the language of the law, allowing physicians to recommend the drug rather than prescribe it. It's already passed the House, and is expected to pass the Senate. Governor John Bel Edwards says he'll sign the bill into law.
Lawmakers are expected to approve the commission to study opioid addiction. It'll be comprised of various medical experts from around the state.