Governor’s Opioid Task Force: A Smart, Comprehensive Approach
By Dennis M. Dimitri, MD
We welcome today’s report from the Governor’s Opioid Working Group. It is a smart, comprehensive approach to an extremely complex problem, and we pledge to pledged to continue to work with public and private officials to combat the opioid overdose epidemic.
We appreciate that the working group addressed many of the issues we have discussed with the Governor Baker, Attorney General Healey, Secretary Sudders and their staffs. We agree that because of the opioid crisis, we need a different approach to the prescribing and management of opioid medications. That is why we’ve taken a proactive approach to the issues, and launched a comprehensive program to educate physicians, other prescribers and the public last month.
We especially support the recommendations to improve the state’s online prescription monitoring program; increasing access to naloxone by encouraging it to be co-prescribed with opioid medications; allowing the partial filling of opioid prescriptions without additional co-payments; expanding education for prescribers and the public; expanding access to intervention and treatment; and taking steps to destigmatize addiction.
Our program to fight opioid overdoes, called “Smart Scripts MA,” was launched in May 2015. It has three components:
Prescribing Guidelines: The guidelines are designed to help physicians make the right decisions for their patients. They were developed by a task force of physicians from a broad range of specialties, and derived from similar work conducted in other states and by several state and national medical specialties.
The guidelines first emphasize that physicians and patients should discuss family and personal histories of substance abuse disorders and behavioral health concerns, before the prescription is written. The guidelines also encourage patients and physicians to mutually develop agreements that outline the expectations and goals of the treatment, along with the conditions for continuing opioid therapy after initial treatment.
Free Education in Pain Management: The MMS has made its online medical education courses in pain management available free to all prescribers until further notice. Five courses are currently available; several more courses will be published later this week, and more courses are planned for later this year. These courses are available for Continuing Medical Education credit. Physicians have been required to obtain CME credits on this topic as a condition of licensure and re-licensure since January 2012.
Public Education Program: The MMS has also launched a public education program to inform patients and their families about the safe storage and proper disposal of their opioid medications, in an effort to reduce the supply of medications in the community. According to the CDC, more than 80% of people who abuse prescription drugs are using medications that were prescribed for someone else. Safe storage and disposal will reduce or eliminate this source of misused prescription medications.