Massachusetts Prescription Drug Monitoring Bill Faces Tight Deadline

Jul 30, 2012

The Massachusetts legislature is pushing to finalize a number of bills before the end of the formal session, including one that would strengthen the state’s prescription drug monitoring program. WAMC’s Lucas Willard reports…

Senate Bill 2125, An Act relative to prescription drug diversion, abuse and addiction, was passed unanimously by the state Senate and transferred to the House Ways and Means Committee in February, and is awaiting approval by the House of Representatives.4th Berkshire District Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli sits on the Ways and Means Committee. He said that the legislation is still going through procedural steps before it can be introduced to the general body of the House for a vote.Pignatelli added that does not forsee any major amendments to be made to the original Senate bill.The bill would require that doctors sign up for the state’s now-voluntary prescription drug monitoring program. In the new bill, the top 30% of all prescribers of narcotics, who write 90% of prescriptions statewide, would be required to register with the program in the next year. All other prescribers would be mandated to sign up for the monitoring program upon renewal of their medical licenses.Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless made comments on the growing rate of opioid painkillers abuse across the nation and state after the Senate passed their version of the bill earlier this year. Capeless, a member of the former Massachusetts OxyContin and Heroin Commission, the group recommended that physicians be further educated on the dangers of over-prescription.The bill seeks to prevent patients from obtaining narcotics prescriptions from multiple doctors – a term known as “doctor shopping.”Dr. Richard Aghababain, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said he supports some measures in the bill, including mandatory reporting of drug theft to local police, educational pamphlets to pharmacies, and training of personnel, but said the bill creates cumbersome regulations on access to the Prescription Monitoring Program.The Massachusetts Medical Society encouraged the Department of Public Heatlh to grant automatic access to prescribers to the Prescription Monitoring Program, and discouraged a mandate of checking the database before prescribing controlled substances .  Dr. Aghababian also mentioned that a case-by-case judgement method should be considered.The bill also includes a “good Samaritan” section to grant partial immunity to possession laws to those who report overdoses, and other provisions.The House has until midnight Tuesday to pass the bill.