Press Release: Thursday, July 12, 2018

Massachusetts Medical Society Statement on House Opioid Bill

Massachusetts Medical Society Statement on House Opioid Bill

“The Massachusetts Medical Society and its physician members appreciate the opportunity to have worked closely with Governor Baker and lawmakers on our shared objective to curb the opioid epidemic, and we support the intent of the House’s version of the opioid bill. 

“We are encouraged that the House has again acknowledged the importance of assuring inmates in Massachusetts access to medication assisted treatment for their substance use disorder. Due to the urgency of the epidemic for this population, however, we encourage the legislature to find a way to require this treatment at all correctional facilities rather than a limited pilot program. 

“One statistic in particular needs to be changed, and access to MAT for the incarcerated sick can be a catalyst in that process.  Massachusetts Department of Public Health research (completed last August) revealed that the opioid-related overdose death rate is 120 times higher for persons who were recently incarcerated. The recent decision to offer MAT to individuals incarcerated in neighboring Rhode Island has been met with well-documented and life-saving success. Emerging data continue to indicate that allowing full access to all appropriate and proven MAT in jails and prisons is both feasible and effective in reducing harm. As physicians, we cannot stand by while those suffering from substance use disorders have forced upon them unsupervised withdrawal when medically appropriate alternatives are accessible. As a society we will bear the results of this cruel policy in both future care expense and, more importantly, lives lost to addiction. 

“We are pleased the concept and implementation of involuntary commitment was reconsidered, as we believe at current the state’s health care infrastructure is not sufficiently prepared to provide medically appropriate care to those who are involuntary committed.  The likely result of involuntarily committing individuals suffering from substance use disorder is substandard care in overcrowded emergency departments, which would place further strain on already limited and stretched hospital resources.  Moreover, there exists no solid research or evidence that the practice of involuntary commitment would save lives, even if avenues to medically appropriate care were free of barriers.

“While the conversion to electronic prescribing will yield important benefits in the areas of safety and convenience for many patients and physicians, the Massachusetts Medical Society strongly urges continued attention to the details of the transition to electronic prescribing to ensure minimum negative impact to patients and physicians, especially as we deal with complex federal regulations that address this practice.  With room for practical flexibility in these situations, we can move more quickly toward assuring that all patients and prescribers benefit from the good intent of electronic prescribing, and we will continue to work with all stakeholders involved to ensure patient safety and efficiency remain paramount during conversion to e-prescribing.”