Debate on Prescription Drug Bill Resolved; Goes to Governor for Signature

The Massachusetts House and Senate today resolved the debate over a proposed prescription drug monitoring bill intended to increase scrutiny of the way prescriptions are handled. The bill now goes to Governor Patrick for his signature.

According to State House News Service, the bill would limit the number of doctors who overprescribe medications that may be abused or illegally sold and would increase participation in the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) by prescribers – a tactic that can be used to identify patients who might be engaged in “doctor shopping”  to gain drugs.

The compromise bill contains provisions that the MMS had advocated for: automatic enrollment in the Prescription Monitoring Program and a required check of the database only for new patients.  MMS had argued that automatic enrollment would increase registrations, currently numbering only 1,800 out of 40,000 some prescribers in the state, and that mandatory use of the system would negatively affect long-standing physician-patient relationships.

Under the bill, participation in the PMP by those who prescribe controlled substances would be mandatory, but enrollment becomes automatic upon license renewal – a provision that the Medical Society said would reduce administrative burdens on physicians and avoid a cumbersome process of paper applications. The bill also says prescribers would only be required to consult the PMP for new patients, and dropped a requirement that physicians check the database before prescribing painkillers to a patient for the first time –a condition the MMS had opposed, saying that any law should allow prescribers to use their professional judgment in treating a patient.

Among the bill’s other provisions as reported by the News Service: Medicaid patients who fill 11 prescriptions from four doctors or at four different pharmacies within 90 days would be put on a watch list; pharmacies would be prohibited from filling prescriptions for narcotics unless written by a doctor licensed and registered in-state, or in one of the five contiguous states to Massachusetts and Maine; a ban on the drug called “bath salts;” pharmacies and drug manufacturers must report thefts to local or state police and the Drug Enforcement Agency; prescriptions for controlled substances would have to be written by doctors on “secure,” tamper-proof prescription pads already required for Medicare and Medicaid patient; pharmacies will be required to sell drug lockboxes, but they will only have to advertise them near registers; the Department of Public Health will provide patient information on the dangers of Class II and Class III drugs; and a working group of physicians will be tapped to write a “best practices” guide for prescribing opioids.


  1. Joseph R. Barrie, M. D. says:

    Another futile exercise in the “War on Drugs” and another way for the Commonwealth to interfere with the legitimate practice of Medicine.

    Another example of Deval Patrick’s inadequacy, as I see it.

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