New Mass. Opioid Guidelines

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine has unanimously voted to incorporate the MMS’s recently developed “Opioid Therapy and Physician Communication Guidelines” into its new updated set of prescribing guidelines.

The new guidelines will be incorporated into existing Board policies and standards that have been in place for many years, as well as new advisories.

Last month, Gov. Charlie Baker announced the names of the 16 experts on the Massachusetts Opioid Drug Formulary Commission tasked with recommending whether drug products shall be placed on the Massachusetts Additional List of Interchangeable Drugs.

The group will assess and evaluate Schedule II and III opioids for four components — accessibility, cost, effectiveness, and abuse-deterrent properties. When a chemically equivalent drug with abuse-deterrent properties is available, the Commission may consider establishing it as an “interchangeable” drug as an alternative to the non-deterrent formula.

In recent weeks, Gov. Baker, along with Commissioner of Public Health Monica Bharel, M.D., also met with MMS officials and representatives from the state’s four medical schools to discuss a physician-led approach in developing training and best practices for medical students on pain management and safe opioid prescribing.

Gov. Baker said he was “pleased with the quality of the dialogue” and saw the meeting as the first of several discussions with physicians about their role in addressing the opioid epidemic.

Commissioner Bharel said the meeting resulted in agreement to develop core competencies to educate future doctors on safe prescribing and pain management.

MMS President Dennis M. Dimitri, M.D., said physicians constantly face the “challenge of patients with ongoing pain, but the pressure of time, inadequate systems to help the physician and patient deal with pain, and the lack of alternative methods of pain relief covered by insurance put physicians in a tight box” where options to relieve pain were limited and opioids may be the only option readily available.

Dr. Dimitri added that doctors now recognize the impact of the number of opioids in the community and that too many have been allowed to be prescribed. He pledged MMS support of the Governor’s effort. “We’re very glad to participate in this process,” he said.

In addition to policy developments at the state level, the MMS, Boston FM radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub, and New England Safety Devin McCourty recently launched a radio campaign to educate the public about steps they can take to help bring the opioid overdose epidemic under control.

Running every week until the end of the regular football season, the messages feature McCourty and Dr. Dimitri.

The “Smart and Safe” radio campaign is part of the Society’s comprehensive program to address prescription drug abuse and opioid overdoses in the Commonwealth. The MMS is a strategic partner of the Medicine Abuse Project of the Partnership for Drug Free Kids. The project has produced two award-winning television commercials that highlight the needs to safeguard medications.

MMS made its CME courses on opioids and pain management free to all prescribers in late May, as part of its multi-pronged efforts to curb opioid abuse. Since then, these courses have been accessed more than 3,200 times.

Learn more at www.massmed.org/SmartandSafe.

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