MMS Statement on Drug Abuse and Opioid Addiction

Before the Senate Special Committee on Drug Abuse and Treatment Options in the Commonwealth 

The Massachusetts Medical Society and its physicians share the Senate’s deep concern with the problem of opioid addiction and overdoses. We fully support expanded access to treatment for opiate addiction, and we look forward to seeing the Senate’s support for expanded treatment in the House budget.  We support expedited and automatic enrollment of all prescribers and pharmacists in the prescription monitoring program and other improvements in the program to make it a valuable clinical tool in decision making.

Concern is justified with the highly addictive potential of any form of opiates. Certainly the latest FDA approved opioid medication is the subject of significant attention and legitimate discussions on the potential impact of its introduction into clinical practice. It is critical that we not forget the needs of our patients in pain to comprehensive medical care that effectively helps them to have the best quality of life that their disease or diagnosis will allow. We need to balance the needs of legitimate patients with pain against the dangers to the public of opiates being in circulation.

The Medical Society has had several discussions over the past year on how best to deal with opiate abuse with: John Keenan, Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Health; the best practices advisory group within the Department of Public Health created as part of Chapter 244; the Board of Registration in Medicine and many other concerned parties.  We support the good faith efforts of all parties to contribute to solutions to this multi-faceted problem.

The MMS helped establish the prescription monitoring program (PMP) in 1992. This database and the Drug Control Program at the DPH are an important resource to research into what is happening in the Commonwealth with prescription diversion. The PMP must at a minimum receive all the state drug registration fees that it collects from prescribers and dispensers. This will allow improvements to the system’s functionality for prescribers, pharmacists, researchers, regulators and law enforcement.

We need to enhance patient education on proper disposal of pain medications that are unused. Too often, a family medicine cabinet can be the source of a young person’s first experimentation with drugs. The MMS supports medication disposal programs and efforts to educate the public on how to safely dispose of unused medications.

We need increased access to treatment on demand for addicts, including medication assisted treatments such as buprenorphine and methadone. There are many different approaches to treating opiate addiction.  The complexity of the disease of addiction requires significant resources and multiple options to deal with the many faces of addiction in the Commonwealth.

We need improved access to overdose antidotes such as Narcan and the treatment on demand for those who have come so close to death.

The MMS looks forward to the recommendations of the Special Committee. Physicians will continue to work with lawmakers, public health officials, patients and all concerned parties in addressing all aspects of the problem of opioid addiction and overdose. 

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