TRENTON — On the same day Chris Christie ends his rein as the Governor of New Jersey, the state welcomes new rules — crafted by his administration — that aim to put a dent in what's considered one of the leading causes of the deadly opioid crisis.

Proposed in August, the rules that take effect Tuesday impose limits on payments and other compensation that licensed prescribers in New Jersey may accept from pharmaceutical companies.

Among the highlights:

  • Licensed physicians, physician assistants, dentists and other prescribers may not accept more than $10,000 per year (total from all manufacturers) for services such as speaking engagements, participation on advisory boards and consulting arrangements. Contracts entered before Tuesday do not apply. The new cap does not apply to payments related to research and education events.
  • Meals provided by manufacturers to prescribers may not exceed a value of $15. The original proposal imposed a cap on the number of meals at four per year, per manufacturer, but that was removed following public comment.
  • Prescribers are prohibited from accepting gifts such as cash, gift cards, entertainment and items with a manufacturer's logo — anything that would benefit the prescriber or staff.

According to Christie's office, New Jersey doctors collected $69 million from drug companies and device manufactures in 2016. Two-thirds of the cash was received by just 300 physicians, with nearly 40 bringing in at least $200,000.

“Doctors who prescribe medicine should be motivated only by what is best for their patients, and never by financial incentives heaped on them by the pharmaceutical industry,” Attorney General Chris Porrino said when the proposed rules were first announced.

The rules hold the prescribers accountable for staying within the limits, not the pharmaceutical companies, making New Jersey unique when compared to other states with caps in place.

"I think that anything that eliminates the appearance of a conflict, or the appearance that doctors are prescribing opioids for the wrong reason, is certainly a step in the right direction," Angelo Valente, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, told New Jersey 101.5.

Valente said the overwhelming majority of doctors prescribe pain pills for the right reasons. Many physicians, he added, may be ill-informed on the impact of the drugs they're prescribing; these new rules could force them to better evaluate the products and their patients' needs before writing a prescription.

Christie's office said four in five new heroin users became hooked by initially misusing prescription painkillers.

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