MMS Urges Passage of House Version of Prescription Drug Monitoring Bill

Contact:
Richard Gulla
(781) 434-7101
rgulla@mms.org 

Waltham, Mass. - August 2, 2012 - The Massachusetts Medical Society today announced its strong support of House 4346, An Act Relative to Prescription Drug Diversion, Abuse and Addiction and urged its passage by the Senate and enactment into law.

MMS President Richard Aghababian, M.D. said, "The physicians of the Society strongly support the work of the House of Representatives in crafting legislation designed to increase the availability and usefulness of the state's prescription monitoring program. We hope the Senate quickly adopts the amendments proposed by the House and look forward to the signing of the bill into law."

Dr. Aghababian said the Society supports the language in the House version that automatically registers all prescribers and dispensers and gives them access to the Department of Public Health's database. Voluntary registration as done by the DPH is a cumbersome process requiring notarized forms for each registrant and paper applications. As a result the DPH has registered only 1,800 prescribers out of nearly 40,000 in the state. 

Dr. Aghababian noted that all prescribers already have a state license from their state licensing board, such as the Board of Registration in Medicine or the Board of Nursing, a federal Drug Enforcement Administration license, and a state Drug Control Program registration with the same organization in the Department of Public Health (DPH) that controls access to the database. "Automatic registration is the quickest way to enroll everyone," he said, "and at the same time eliminate an unnecessary administrative burden on physicians, other prescribers, and dispensers. It will be one big step to make the system work more efficiently."

The Society also said it opposes a mandate that all prescribers check the system before issuing a prescription for a Schedule II or III drug (stimulants, narcotics, and other commonly-prescribed painkillers) for the first time.

"The law should let a prescriber use his or her professional judgment in treating a patient," Dr. Aghababian said, "and whether information in the prescription monitoring database is likely to be relevant to a patient's care. "It doesn't make much sense for a physician to have to check the database every time for a prescription for a patient he or she has been treating for many years. Some allowance should be made for the importance of the physician-patient relationship and the trust that underlies that relationship." 

MMS also supports the House provision that allows for more input from prescribers and dispensers into how the PMP will actually work. "We believe the system will work best if those that use it have an opportunity to make suggestions and contribute to its functioning," said Dr. Aghababian.

He said that physicians look forward to working with the Commissioner of Public Health, patient advocates, and the licensing boards overseeing medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, and physician assistants in a working group on ways to improve the usefulness of the extensive data which the Department of Public Health has been compiling, including new mandated regulations on safe prescribing and dispensing and times when it may be appropriate to check the database prior to issuing a prescription to a new patient.

The Medical Society has also stated its firm support of many of the bill's other  provisions, including the reporting of drug thefts to local police, pamphlets for pharmacies, lock boxes to protect prescriptions from unauthorized use in the home, secure prescription forms as long as they are consistent with federal program requirements, criminalization on bath salts and methamphetamines, immunity for good faith seeking of medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug-related overdose, a MassHealth review of prescriptions for patients, substance abuse training for various personnel, required outreach by the DPH to pharmacists on the benefits of the program, studying treatment in correctional facilities, and a study of the impact on elders of prescription abuse,  and the broad availability of medications to combat overdose. 
 
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 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 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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