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Massachusetts Making Big Moves To Help Curb Opiate Abuse

Many Americans are suffering from opiate addiction. The amount of people who are addicted to opiates is at the highest rates it has ever been. Overdose rates are also rising by the day and many states have record breaking deaths last year. This has rightfully caught the attention of local community citizens as well as those that govern our states and country.

In the past few years many state legislators have proposed new laws and bills to combat the opiate addiction epidemic. For the most part, these new bills and laws have made a significant impact and have saved many lives. Some states are doing more than others and the two states that have been making the biggest progress are Ohio and Massachusetts. Ohio was the first state to start a prescription drug monitoring program. That program tracks a patients prescriptions and allows pharmacists and doctors to access their medication to prevent abuse and multiple prescriptions of the same drugs. It is also a great tool for patients with multiple doctors who are not aware of all their medications which can prevent lethal interactions between medications.

Massachusetts has been in the news the past few months for their progress and pro-active work against the states opiate epidemic. When the controversial medication Zohydro was set to release, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced the banning of the drug. The ban has since been lifted because of an injunction by a federal judge. The reason for the Governors distaste for the medication is the potential for the hydrocodone-only pill to be tampered and abused. The drug currently has no tamper proofing to it while it is becoming necessary for most pills. Along with the strong move by the governor, the state has made many new changes as well.

A bill developed by a special committee on drug addiction, chaired by state Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan, state public health officials would set up a certification process for drug treatment operations and insurers would be prohibited from requiring prior authorization for treatment at those certified programs. Ms. Flanagan and her committee attended eight hearings across the state of Massachusetts this year.  One topic that was continuously brought up was the fact that there is a lack of access to treatment centers. Many addicts who want treatment for drug addiction are turned away for multiple reasons. Some of these reasons include not having enough drugs in one's system, not being addicted for a long enough period of time and insurance companies refusing to cover the costs. I feel many of the reasons for denial of care are ridiculous.

The Massachusetts bill will require commercial insurance companies to cover 21 days of clinical detox and MassHealth, the state's Medicaid program, would be required to cover 15 days of clinical detox or stabilization services. Other provisions to restrict prescription painkiller abuse would require pharmacies to automatically substitute drugs with tamper proofing qualities for readily abused opiate painkillers.  Pharmacies would have to give patients tamper proofing substitutes unless a doctor specifically indicates no substitutes. The bill allows the state to require doctors to limit the amount of pills and to conduct a risk assessment before prescribing painkillers as well.

This bill is filled with great changes to help fight the opiate epidemic affecting our country. I expect many states to follow Massachusetts example and I look forward to seeing the statistics backing the work this state has done. Many lives will be saved and abuse will hopefully decline.


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