MMS: 37,000 free opioid and pain management classes taken by prescribers

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21st, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS: 37,000 free opioid and pain management classes taken by prescribers

The Massachusetts Medical Society  announced that more than 13,000 individuals have taken one or more of its 19 opioid and pain management-focused continuing medical education courses, which have been available free to all prescribers since May of 2015.

To date, 37,000 courses have been completed.

Of the more than 13,000 users who have taken advantage of the resource since its launch, 84 percent were physicians and 62 percent of the unique users practice in Massachusetts.

Topics covered within the online courses include safe prescribing for chronic pain, screening for opioid abuse disorder, managing pain without overusing opioids, and therapies that can serve as an alternative to the prescribing of opioids.

“Reversing the trend of the opioid epidemic is of utmost importance to the Massachusetts Medical Society,” Society President Henry L. Dorkin, M.D., FAAP, said. “Certainly, we are encouraged by the response and usage rate of the continuing medical education courses. Continuous, data-based education of prescribers is unquestionably a critical component of what needs to be a multi-pronged attack on the epidemic, and I’m proud that we are able to and will continue to offer this resource to our peers not only in Massachusetts, but across the nation.”

The Society last week supported Governor Charlie Baker’s opioid-combatting “CARE Act” and has deployed its membership base of 25,000 toward reducing harm caused by opioid abuse disorder by backing the state’s prescription drug-monitoring program and through its opioid-prescribing guidelines, which were developed by the organization’s Task Force on Opioid Therapy and Physician Communication.



MMS thoughts on Gov. Baker’s “Opioids 2.0 Bill”

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS thoughts on Gov. Baker’s “Opioids 2.0 Bill”

Statement from Massachusetts Medical Society President Henry L. Dorkin, MD, FAAP, on “An Act Relative to Combatting Addiction, Accessing Treatment, Reducing Prescriptions and Enhancing Prevention”:

“The Massachusetts Medical Society applauds Governor Baker for his leadership and drive toward curbing the opioid crisis that continues to plague the Commonwealth, and commends the Legislature for its recognition that this public health crisis must be met with urgency and multi-faceted, data-backed tactics and measures. We appreciate the Commonwealth’s commitment to and investment in prevention and we stand in support of the intent of the proposed bill.

“We are gratified by the Governor’s continued support of a partial-fill law which will allow patients and physicians to reconnect upon completion of an initial course of treatment and determine whether further use of such pain medication is warranted and safe, or whether the remainder of the prescription need not be filled.

“The partial-fill approach to opioid prescribing remains a vital component in reducing opportunities for unused pain medication to be transferred from a patient to those who suffer from opioid abuse disorder or may be at risk of developing an opioid use disorder.

“Evidence-based prevention approaches to protect school-aged children from opioid abuse are essential tools, and we applaud the Governor for the provision establishing the Trust Fund for Prevention.

“The Medical Society commends the important discourse relative to the electronic prescribing of controlled substances. We appreciate the intent and the spirit of the provision promoting greater adoption of e-prescribing of controlled substances, and look forward to engaging with the administration on details of the proposal. A well-functioning, easy-to-use form of electronic controlled substance prescribing that improves and facilitates the physician’s ordering of such medication would be a boon to all concerned.

“We are optimistic and heartened by the decline in Schedule II opioid prescriptions, but recognize more work remains in the effort to reduce overdoses. Our goal, like the Governor’s, is an overdose mortality rate of zero.

“The Massachusetts Medical Society appreciates the opportunity to express our views and reiterates its appreciation to Governor Baker, his Department of Health and Human Services, and the Legislature for taking vital action on behalf of the Commonwealth, and we look forward to continuing to partner with the Governor and lawmakers on solutions designed to reduce the harm caused by the opioid epidemic.”

The Norfolk South District Medical Society 19th Annual Anti-Tobacco Program: “Smoking – Don’t Go There”

Posted in Uncategorized on November 6th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on The Norfolk South District Medical Society 19th Annual Anti-Tobacco Program: “Smoking – Don’t Go There”

Physician members of the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Norfolk South District Medical Society are once again volunteering their time to help spread the word on the dangers of tobacco use and cigarette smoking by talking to adolescents in communities throughout the South Shore.

This year marks the 19th annual presentation of the Norfolk South District Medical Society’s anti-smoking program “Smoking – Don’t Go There.”

This public service effort is held in conjunction with the Great American Smokeout, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 16.  The program, approximately 45 minutes, includes a question-and-answer session and visual tools like “tar in the jar” and pig lungs that depict a healthy lung compared to a smoker’s lung.

The effort is led by Dr. Mary Delaney, longtime volunteer in the program and a member of the Norfolk South District Medical Society. Dr. Delaney is an internist and endocrinologist with Harbor Medical Associates in South Weymouth, a primary care and specialty services medical practice serving the South Shore.

Dr. Delaney has participated in the program since its inception.

banner image for GASO 2017 that says "When Trying to Quit Smoking, Support Can Make All the Difference. #GASO"

Schools participating again this year include the Abigail Adams Intermediate School in Weymouth, Hull Middle School, Broad Meadow School and Sterling Middle School in Quincy.  Schools new to the program this year include St. Francis Xavier School and South Shore Christian Academy in Weymouth.

Medical Society officials state such prevention programs have become increasingly important as the state has drastically cut back on tobacco control and education programs and as tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in Massachusetts and the nation.

Statistics released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids call attention to the declining funding levels for anti-tobacco efforts across the nation and in Massachusetts, despite the 1998 landmark settlement of $246 billion with tobacco companies.

Each day, about 3,500 kids in the United States try their first cigarette, and each day 1,000 other kids under 18 become daily smokers. Ninety percent of all adult smokers begin while in their teens or earlier, and two thirds become daily smokers by the time they are 19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youngsters who smoke are three times more likely than nonsmokers to use alcohol, eight times more likely to use marijuana, and 22 times more likely to use cocaine. Smoking is also associated with numerous other high-risk behaviors, including fighting, engaging in unprotected sex, and carrying weapons.

The Norfolk South District Medical Society, with nearly 400 local physician members throughout southern and southeastern Massachusetts, is one of 20 local district medical societies throughout the Bay State that comprise the Massachusetts Medical Society.



MMS signs joint letter supporting medication assisted treatment for incarcerated individuals

Posted in Uncategorized on November 2nd, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS signs joint letter supporting medication assisted treatment for incarcerated individuals

The Massachusetts Medical Society is proud to be included in a coalition of organizations that on Nov. 1 sent to Massachusetts lawmakers, including House Speaker Robert DeLeo, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary and the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Recovery, a letter advocating for the implementation of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for inmates with opioid abuse disorder who are incarcerated within the Department of Corrections or the county sheriff system.

The coalition based its collective stance on the matter on research that indicates that a combination of MAT and behavioral therapies can successfully treat substance use disorders and help sustain recovery.

The coalition’s position is in line with Massachusetts Medical Society policy, which states that “the MMS will work with other appropriate public and private entities to increase access to services for opiate treatment.”

You can view that letter here.

Statement on opioid crisis declaration

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Statement on opioid crisis declaration
October 26, 2017 – Henry L. Dorkin, MD, FAAP, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, released the following statement:

“The opioid crisis, which is taking the lives of friends, neighbors, and family members across the country, should rightly be declared a public health emergency. However, in order to truly stem the tide of this epidemic, the declaration must be matched by a coordinated federal effort that is equivalent to what is already being done at the state level.

“This crisis knows no borders, and it impacts people from all walks of life, of all ages, across the United States. Here in Massachusetts, despite having had a wide range of public and private efforts underway for several years, we saw roughly 2,000 opioid-related overdose deaths just last year.

“Our experience has demonstrated the value of patient-focused partnership between the medical community and elected officials at all levels.   The Commonwealth’s 2014 declaration of the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis helped lead to a dramatic increase in the use of the state’s prescription drug monitoring system, MassPAT. Governor Baker’s commitment to make the system a true clinical tool for physicians has had a major impact.    According to data from the Department of Public Health, while MassPAT searches increased by 500 percent between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2017, the number of Schedule II opioid prescriptions written dropped by 23 percent and the number of individuals receiving prescriptions dropped by 24 percent. But there is still much work to be done in implementing change that saves lives – a goal that we should all share.

“Massachusetts has been an innovator and a leader in identifying and implementing state and federal policies that slow the spread of opioid use disorder and improve the ability of affected patients to get the care that they need in pursuit of recovery. For this, we thank our elected leaders, including local officials; Governor Baker, state lawmakers and public health officials; and members of our Congressional delegation, who have fought successfully for legislation that has addressed the crisis nationally.

“The data from Massachusetts confirm that policy changes can help make a difference in slowing the growth of the crisis and the countless tragic deaths that it causes. While we appreciate the effort from the Administration to bring to bear the strength of the federal government, we also believe that this crisis requires the allocation of adequate federal resources to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the people impacted by opioid use disorder.”


MMS supports new gun violence research organization, Stop the Bleed

Posted in Uncategorized on October 13th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS supports new gun violence research organization, Stop the Bleed

The Massachusetts Medical Society, in its continued efforts to understand the causes of and lead in the prevention of gun violence, this week announced it will “support the mission and goals of the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM) in so far as AFFIRM reflects the stated policies of the MMS as it reaches out to private and charitable funders to achieve its research aims.”

AFFIRM is an independent, physician-led organization – 501(c)(3) status pending – with a stated mission to raise monies from the private sector to fund firearm injury prevention research and to support professional guideline groups in the development of evidence-based, best practice recommendations for health care providers to reduce the incidence and health consequences of firearm-related violence.

The MMS policy relevant to this relationship with AFFIRM, adopted in May of 2013, states, “The MMS is guided by the principles of reducing the number of deaths, disabilities, and injuries attributable to guns; making gun ownership safer; promoting education relative to guns, ammunition, and violence prevention, for physicians and other health professionals as well as for the public; encouraging research to understand the risk factors related to gun violence and deaths.”

At the suggestion of MMS Immediate Past President Dr. James Gessner, AFFIRM was introduced to the MMS presidential officers by Dr. Christopher Barsotti, emergency physician at Berkshire Medical Center and Chair of the Trauma and Injury Prevention Section at the American College of Emergency Physicians.

AFFIRM is led by a Steering Committee of renowned experts in firearm-related harm reduction, including Dr. John Burress, Vice Chair of the MMS Committee on Public Health and Dr. Eric Goralnick, Chair of the MMS Committee on Preparedness.

Related, MMS amended and reaffirmed its Emergency Medical Services policy with language specific to the “Stop the Bleed” initiative, which includes, “the Massachusetts Medical Society promote widespread population awareness of the ‘Stop the Bleed’ initiative to control severe hemorrhage in disaster and trauma events.”

Drs. Goralnick and Barsotti tied in AFFIRM’s mission and the Stop the Bleed campaign as “part of the arc of prevention and care” related to trauma and disaster situations.

Launched in October of 2015 by the White House, Stop the Bleed is a national awareness campaign and a call to action. Stop the Bleed is intended to cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.

MMS statement on birth control coverage

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS statement on birth control coverage

October 6, 2017 – Henry L. Dorkin, MD, FAAP, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, released the following statement regarding coverage of birth control:

“Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of women around the country have benefited from no-copay coverage of contraception. Reducing financial barriers to effective birth control helps women avoid unintended pregnancy and its related health implications. Birth control helps women choose when to become pregnant, which can lead to better outcomes for them and for their families. And coverage of contraception without a co-pay removes the financial burdens for women who rely on birth control for non-contraceptive purposes.

“In the face of a federal rollback of these important protections, the Massachusetts Medical Society is grateful to our elected officials, who are pursuing innovative approaches toward expanding birth control access for women and families across the state.

“Our state legislation would not only maintain the protections under the Affordable Care Act – it would actually take steps to ensure greater access to a range of forms of contraception for both men and women, including emergency contraception and highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC).

“As physicians, we recognize the value of contraception to the families of Massachusetts. We are disappointed that access to needed birth control will be scaled back for many women across the country, but we are grateful to the elected officials of the Commonwealth who understand that birth control is essential medical care.”

In a disaster, ham radio can save lives

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on In a disaster, ham radio can save lives

By Dr. Henry L. Dorkin, FAAP, M.D., President,  Massachusetts Medical Society

As an amateur (ham) radio aficionado, I’ve been reading with interest about new federal government regulations that call for hospitals to have alternative telecommunication systems in place for regional or national emergencies.  

One such alternative means of communication is ham radio, which is already deployed by many hospitals as part of their disaster response plans and was crucial in providing imperative communications in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina. 

Dr. Henry L. Dorkin

In recent weeks, unfathomable and unfortunate circumstances again proved ham radio to be indisputably necessary and effective in an emergency, as parts of the United States and the Caribbean were decimated by hurricanes. 

The Federal Communications Commission reported that at one point last week more than 95 percent of cell phone towers in Puerto Rico were down, leaving millions in Puerto Rico and abroad helpless in trying to reach relatives and friends to confirm their safety. 

Enter ham radio and a volunteer group of trained and dedicated operators, including ARES – the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, and RACES – the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.  

A recent CNN headline proclaimed “Ham radio operators are saving Puerto Rico one transmission at a time.”  Some 50 ham radio operators descended on the disaster scene to provide communications for critical services that were destroyed by the natural disaster.  

The operators operated on frequencies well above standard AM radio bands; they shared by voice, digital and Morse code communications the storm’s track and relayed to first responders information on sick residents in need of urgent medical care.  

The reason amateur radio is invaluable in an emergency is because ham radio technologies are not totally dependent on the modern grid. Emergency operation with portable antennas and emergency battery/solar power/generators can be established quickly in almost any setting. 

Of course, that’s not to say that standard technologies don’t offer tremendous promise for patient care as well as population health. From wearables to telehealth, there’s more to technology than the new iPhone, but when new technology cannot withstand the blows of natural or man-made disasters and lives are stake, we must have reliable backup, and ham radio has been just that for more than 100 years. 

The Society would like to know how many licensed amateur radio operators we have in the MMS. Please contact me with your call sign via e-mail to This may be an added facet to our Disaster Preparedness. If you are already involved with ARES or RACES, please include that in the e-mail as well 


Henry L. Dorkin MD, FAAP 

President, Massachusetts Medical Society

WM1V – Hank 

Dr. Dorkin joins Sen. Markey to oppose Graham-Cassidy

Posted in Uncategorized on September 25th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Dr. Dorkin joins Sen. Markey to oppose Graham-Cassidy

Below is a transcript to the testimony given by Dr. Henry L. Dorkin, M.D., FAAP, President, Massachusetts Medical Society Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 on the Graham-Cassidy Bill:

Thank you, Senator Markey, for inviting me to join you today and for your willingness to fight for the people of Massachusetts.

As the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, I am here to strongly oppose the bill. Rather than focusing on common-sense approaches to shore up the insurance markets and make the ACA work better, the sponsors of this bill have introduced an approach that is even worse than those that came before.

Let me give you a specific example of why this is the case.

Dr. Dorkin, MMS President, at testimony on Graham-Cassidy

I’m a pediatric pulmonologist. Let me tell you about a condition that quickly deteriorates when patients aren’t able to receive regular checkups and preventive care: asthma.

Asthma is major cause of illness in children of all ages. It has a tremendous impact on their overall health and quality of life, and it also has a considerable impact on the overall cost of medical care.

These children, if their disease is not well controlled, spend a lot of time in the doctor’s office, the emergency room, the inpatient service, and (not infrequently) the intensive care unit.

Children without health insurance have less access to the medications and preventive care that keep them well. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act has allowed many families previously without health insurance to obtain it. This has allowed them access to the type of care which reduces exacerbations of the disease and keeps children out of the hospital.

As these children grow up, they need continuous care to let them flourish as adults – and that requires reliable, affordable, meaningful insurance coverage.

Graham-Cassidy would attack that in two ways. By undoing essential health benefits, it would allow insurance companies to choose not to cover the type of preventive care that keeps patients healthy. And by slashing protections for patients with preexisting conditions – conditions like asthma – the bill would allow insurance companies to charge astronomic rates beyond the reach of too many patients like mine.

I shudder to imagine the impact on my patients as a result of block grants. As funds dry up, the need for life-saving care goes on. I think of my cystic fibrosis patients, in need of life-saving interventions. They cannot wait for federal funding. Their conditions will simply not allow it.

It is my life’s work to fight for children with respiratory diseases. As the president of the MMS, I am here on behalf of 25,000 other Massachusetts physicians who have made a similar commitment to their patients.

We must do better for them, and I’m glad to be here to talk about how we can do so.

I would like to share a personal story. A decade ago my wife and I were at the wedding of a young woman with Cystic Fibrosis who had survived a lung transplant. While she and her new husband were out on the dance floor, my wife leaned over to me and whispered, ” you know, when I married you, we used to go to a lot of funerals of 8 and 10 year olds. Now we are going to a bunch of weddings of 30 year olds. I like this better.” I told her I liked it better, too.  I fear that if Graham-Cassidy were to pass, we would go back to attending more funerals of children. That would be unbearable, and unfair.

I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say we look forward to working with you to make sure that does not happen.


MMS files amicus brief in potential landmark opioid-related case

Posted in opioids on September 20th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS files amicus brief in potential landmark opioid-related case

A statement from Henry L. Dorkin, M.D., FAAP, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, on the Society’s filing of an amicus brief in “The Julie Eldred Case.”

During the last several years, I have taken great professional and personal pride in the Massachusetts Medical Society’s public positions on important questions. One of these is acknowledgment of our obligation to take strong and decisive actions that we, as a delegation of physicians calling on our knowledge and ethics, determine will curtail and one day end one of our nation’s most pressing public health crises – the opioid epidemic.

Our advocacy work on this has been relentless and resolute. Therefore, we cannot, in good conscience, remain on the sidelines as a potential landmark case affecting patients who suffer from opioid abuse disorder plays out imminently in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The Supreme Judicial Court will hear the case of Julie Eldred, a Massachusetts woman who suffers from opioid use disorder, and who, as part of her probation for admitting guilt on a larceny charge, was ordered to “remain substance-free and submit to random drug testing.”

Ms. Eldred, having recently started treatment, later tested positive for fentanyl, lighting a legal fuse that could have major implications on the way in which opioid abuse disorder is treated in our legal system.

At stake in this pivotal case is whether an individual can be incarcerated or otherwise sanctioned because of a recurrence of a symptom; in this instance, relapse, a common symptom many with opioid use disorder experience before attaining complete abstinence.

The MMS, along with other organizations, including the Association for Behavioral Medicine, the BMC Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine and the Northeastern University’s Center for Health Policy and Law, was compelled to file with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court an amicus brief (which you can read by clicking here) conveying our position.

It goes without saying that the Society neither condones nor dismisses commission of any crimes; however, we are respectfully urging the Court to recognize that opioid abuse disorder is a medically diagnosed chronic disease. Mandating an individual “guarantee relapse does not occur upon penalty of incarceration” is out of alignment with the scientific evidence that opioid abuse disorder is best addressed (with a greater level of success) as a public health issue rather than as a criminalized behavior.