MMS Launches Effort to Educate Prescribers and Patients about Prescription Drug Abuse

Waltham, Mass. – May 21, 2015 –  Saying that “There is no more important public health issue today than the opioid epidemic,” the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society today announced that the organization is launching a comprehensive campaign to educate physicians and patients about safe prescribing and the storage and disposal of prescription pain medications. 

“Physicians must step forward immediately,” said Dennis M. Dimitri, M.D., president of the statewide association of physicians with nearly 25,000 members, “to do everything we can to help bring this devastating problem under control.”  Read the complete announcement here.

Citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Dimitri noted that more than 80 percent of people who misuse prescription pain medications are using drugs prescribed to someone else.  He also called attention to a recent poll by the Harvard School of Public Health that discovered that nearly 4 in 10 Massachusetts residents personally know someone who has abused prescription pain medications.

Dr. Dimitri said that while he believes most physicians prescribe responsibly, the data “tells me that there are too many doses of opioid medications in circulation. By limiting this supply and ensuring that opioids are available only to patients who truly need them, we can make a big impact on the Commonwealth’s opioid crisis.”

Dimitri said the Medical Society’s campaign will have three components:

  1. Guidelines for prescribers to help them make the right decisions for their patients;
  2. Free educational resources for prescribers to help inform their judgments;
  3. Information on the critical aspects of storage and disposal of prescription drugs for patients and families. 

The guidelines for prescribers are being recommended for use by all physicians, Dr. Dimitri said, and are not designed to micromanage care, but to improve patient care and lessen the risks associated with opioid prescribing. “We recognize that each patient is different, “he said, “and in all cases, a prescriber’s sound clinical judgment is important. However, we also believe that several principles should govern the exercise of this clinical judgment.”

The second component of the effort focuses on education as a key element in reducing prescription drug abuse. Dr. Dimitri said the Medical Society will make its pain management courses available free to all prescribers until further notice.  “We intend to remove as many barriers to prescriber education as possible,” said Dr. Dimitri.  

The final element of the campaign is a collaborative effort with the Partnership for Drug Free Kids and its Medicine Abuse Project to disseminate information about safe storage and proper disposal of opioid medications – key elements in reducing the number of people who abuse drugs that are prescribed to someone else. 

The prescribing guidelines are available here. The public education materials will be available on the Society’s website in early June. They will be available to anyone who wishes to put them in their offices or share them electronically.  

“There is no more important public health issue today than the opioid epidemic,” said Dr. Dimitri. “It is devastating communities, families, men, women, rich and poor, and most tragically, children and adolescents.  It has to stop – and physicians are ready to do our part.”


The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 24,000 physicians and student members, is dedicated to educating and advocating for the patients and physicians of Massachusetts. The Society, under the auspices of NEJM Group, publishes the New England Journal of Medicine, a leading global medical journal and web site, and Journal Watch alerts and newsletters covering 13 specialties. The Society is also a leader in continuing medical education providing accredited and certified activities across the globe for physicians and other health care professionals.  Founded in 1781, MMS is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country. For more information please visit www.massmed.org, www.nejm.org, or www.jwatch.org. 

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