Mass. Receives Mixed Marks On Painkiller Prescription Report

Massachusetts ranks in the top 10 of all states for prescribing OxyContin and other long-acting painkillers, but in the bottom 10 for overall prescribing of opioids.

That’s according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, based on 2012 data, says Massachusetts ranks eighth in long-acting painkiller prescription rates and ninth in the use of the sedative benzodiazepine.

“State variation in prescribing shows us that the overprescribing of opioids can be reduced safely and feasibly,” said Daniel Sosin, acting director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in a statement. “Improving how opioids are prescribed will help us prevent the 46 prescription painkiller overdose deaths that occur each day in the United States.”

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Mass. Gov Seeks More Restrictions On Controversial Painkiller

State House News reports that Gov. Deval Patrick is trying once again to crack down on the controversial pain medication Zohydro:

After a federal judge struck down the governor’s emergency ban on Zohydro, Gov. Patrick moved on Tuesday to impose restrictions on prescribing the powerful new painkiller that include mandatory risk assessments for patients.

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

The Patrick administration announced late Tuesday afternoon that doctors would be required to complete a risk assessment and pain management treatment agreement before prescribing any drug like Zohydro, which is a hydrocodone-only medication that state public health officials say is not yet manufactured in an abuse-deterrent form.

Zohydro only hit the market in March after the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for commercial use in October. Other states such as Vermont have taken similar steps to protect against the potential abuse of Zohydro by making it more difficult for doctors to prescribe.

The Board of Registration in Medicine voted to approve the new restrictions on Tuesday, and Department of Public Health Commission Cheryl Bartlett issued an emergency order requiring physicians to utilize the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program before prescribing Zohydro, which is a way for state authorities and prescribers to track where patients are getting their drugs. Continue reading

Backlash Against Walgreen’s New Painkiller Crackdown

By Judy Foreman
Guest Contributor

You may be in for a shock if you try to get a prescription for any controlled substance – from Ambien to opioid pain relievers – filled at Walgreens anywhere around the country.

Walgreens recently announced what it calls a new “Good Faith Dispensing” policy under which the pharmacy giant – the largest in the nation – is suddenly requiring its pharmacists to take “additional steps” to verify prescriptions for controlled substances.



This process, the company says, “may, at times, require” the pharmacist to contact the prescribing doctor to make sure the diagnosis, the exact billing code, the expected length of therapy and “the previous medications/therapies tried and failed” are correct.

In plain English, this means that Walgreens pharmacists are going to call your doctor, or at least your doctor’s office, to see if your doctor did the right thing in giving you a prescription for pain relievers and other drugs. The policy is provoking distress and outrage among pain patients, physicians and others.

In a telephone conversation, a Walgreens spokesman denied that the aggressive new policy was specifically triggered by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s crackdown on the company in the wake of problems with infamous “pill mills” in Florida. Until recently, unscrupulous “patients” and unscrupulous doctors in Florida have colluded in diverting massive quantities of prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone (an ingredient in OxyContin) through fake clinics dubbed “pill mills.”

In June, Walgreens and the DEA announced an $80 million settlement to resolve the government’s charges that Walgreens failed to control the sales of opioid pain relievers in some of its stores.

The government said that distributors of pain relievers failed to monitor suspiciously large orders for opioids Necessary as that crackdown was, a presumably unintended result is that legitimate pain patients are finding it harder to get the medications they need. Continue reading