Massachusetts Medical Society: MMS Testfies Before Senate Special Committee on Drug Abuse and Treatment Options in the Commonwealth

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

Contact: Richard Gulla
(781) 434-7101

Waltham, Mass. – May 6, 2014 – Saying that physicians “share the Senate’s deep concern with the problem of opioid addiction and overdoses,” the Massachusetts Medical Society today offered testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Drug Abuse and Treatment Options in the Commonwealth.  The Committee was recently formed by the State Senate as a result of the increasing number of deaths related to drug abuse and has been conducting listening sessions around the state.

While recognizing the severity of the problem of opiate addiction, the Medical Society cautioned that a need exists “to balance the needs of legitimate patients with pain against the dangers to the public of opiates being in circulation.”

The physicians’ group said “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. ”

At the same time, the Society noted that “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.”

Among the actions the Medical Society supports:

  • Expedited and automatic enrollment of all prescribers and pharmacists in the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, as well as other program improvements, such as real-time information, to make it a valuable clinical tool in decision-making.
  • Enhanced patient education on the proper disposal of unused medications. “Too often, a family medicine cabinet can be the source of a young person’s first experimentation with drugs,” said the Society.
  • Increased access to treatment on demand for addicts, including greater access to antidotes such as Narcan and medication-assisted treatments such as buprenorphine and methadone. “There are many different approaches to treating opiate addiction,” the Medical Society noted, and “the complexity of the disease of addiction requires significant resources and multiple options to deal with the many faces of addiction in the Commonwealth.”

The Medical Society said it has had several discussions over the past year on how best to deal with opiate abuse with representatives from the Department of Public Health, the Board of Registration in Medicine, and John Keenan, Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Health, and supports “the good faith efforts of all parties to contribute to solutions to this multi-faceted problem.”

In its testimony, the Medical Society called particular attention to the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, which it helped to establish in 1992. “This database and the Drug Control Program at the Department of Public Health,” the Society noted, “are important resources 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 .”

The Medical Society said it 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.

Read the complete testimony of the Medical Society.

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 NEJM Journal Watch alerts and publications covering 13 specialties. The Society is also a leader in continuing medical education for health care professionals throughout Massachusetts, conducting a variety of medical education programs for physicians and health care professionals. Founded in 1781, MMS is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country.

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