Addressing the Opioid Issue from All Angles

Governor Baker announced on Wednesday that he intends to file a new bill to address the opioid epidemic. The details of the bill have not been revealed yet, but the State House News Service quoted the governor as saying it would deal with “prevention and education, intervention, and treatment and recovery.”

Massachusetts has previously passed bills to address the opioid problem and the provider community has stepped up on its own to fight the problem. MHA’s Substance Use Disorder Prevention and Treatment Task Force developed operational guidelines for hospitals and physician practices to use that have begun to reduce the number of opioid pain prescriptions. The Massachusetts Medical Society has issued its own set of prescribing guidelines and MD education protocols.

Additionally, scrutiny of opioid manufacturers and insurance company practices is emerging.  On Tuesday, Attorney General Maura Healey said she is expanding her office’s role in investigating the marketing and sale of opioids by major drug companies. In a media release, the Massachusetts AG’s office said, “Healey is investigating whether drug-makers sought to increase profits by misrepresenting the dangers of prescription painkillers and ignoring the public health risks of spiking opioid sales.”

And on Monday, The New York Times published the results of an investigation it conducted with the investigative journalism group ProPublica. The paper’s report implied that health insurance companies “are limiting access to pain medications that carry a lower risk of addiction or dependence, even as they provide comparatively easy access to generic opioid medications. The reason, experts say: Opioid drugs are generally cheap while safer alternatives are often more expensive.”