Massachusetts Medical Society: 5,000 Prescribers have Taken 15,000 Courses in Safe Opioid Prescribing

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

Waltham – June 23 – The Massachusetts Medical Society today announced that more than 5,000 individuals have taken one or more of its 18 continuing medical education courses on opioids and pain management, reflecting the physician group’s activity in one of its key elements in combatting the opioid epidemic in the state: prescriber education.  The Society has been offering the courses free to all prescribers for more than year, and the Society says the total number of its courses that have been completed exceeds 15,000.

The Society’s announcement follows Governor Charlie Baker’s assessment that prescriber education is a key component in reversing the trend of opioid misuse. 

James S. Gessner, M.D., president of the society, said “Physicians recognized early that prescriber education would be a critical step in addressing the opioid epidemic and that our society could make a significant contribution to the effort by sharing our resources.  We are heartened by the response, and will continue to make these courses available at no charge as part of our continuing effort to improve prescribing practices and reduce the amount of drugs that can be abused or misused.” 

Dr. Gessner said that in a span of 13 months, from May 2015 through June 20 of this year, a total of 15, 175 of the Society’s continuing medical education courses in pain management and safe opioid prescribing have been completed by 5,265 individuals. Of those individuals, 86 percent are physicians, and 66 percent practice in Massachusetts.  

The Society currently offers 18 opioid and pain management online courses to all prescribers.  Among the contents of the courses are topics such as managing pain without overusing opioids, managing risk when prescribing narcotics, safe prescribing for chronic pain, screening and evaluation of substance abuse disorder, and alternative therapies to opioids.  Dr. Gessner said that the courses are reviewed and updated regularly, to provide health professionals with the latest information on opioids and pain management. 

The physicians’ group began offering its courses free to all prescribers in May of 2015 shortly after it issued its Opioid Therapy and Physician Communication Guidelines, a document that created prescribing guidelines for acute care and chronic pain.  

The guidelines were developed with the most relevance for physicians and health professionals in primary care -- those who prescribe the majority of pain medications -- and were subsequently adopted by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine and incorporated into their comprehensive advisory to physicians on prescribing issues and practices.  

Dr. Gessner, who last year chaired the Society’s Task Force on Opioid Therapy and Physician Communication that developed the prescribing guidelines, added that the Society’s prescriber education efforts have expanded to include working with state public health officials and the deans of the state’s four medical schools in creating core competencies on opioids and pain management for medical school students and reaching out to academic medical centers in developing similar educational offerings for residency training programs. 

Access to educational courses for health professionals is but one of the activities the Society has undertaken to address the opioid epidemic during the last year.  It has also created an Opioid Legislation Practice Guide for physicians, to assist them in understanding the elements of the comprehensive new state law addressing the opioid epidemic that Governor Baker signed in March and has also engaged in several efforts directed at patients, including a dedicated website, Smart and Safe, and public service videos and announcements educating patients about the safe storage and disposal of prescription medications.  


The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 25,000 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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