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Mass. House Bill Aims to Curb Flow of Millions of Painkillers

Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez is among House members who gave unanimous support to a measure that aims to reduce abuse of prescription painkillers. (Office of Rep. Sanchez)
Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez is among House members who gave unanimous support to a measure that aims to reduce abuse of prescription painkillers. (Office of Rep. Sanchez)
January 15, 2016

BOSTON - State lawmakers passed a measure in the House this week that would limit the prescriptions that most doctors write for pain medications to a seven-day supply.

State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Dist. 15) supports the measure. He says more than 1,0000 people died from opioid-related overdoses in the state in 2014. He says something needs to be done to stem the flow of prescription painkillers making their way to local streets.

"There's over 240 million pills that were prescribed last year," says Sanchez. "That's a 30-day supply of opioids for every single citizen of the Commonwealth. We have to get a handle on it; we feel that this bill will help that."

The seven-day supply limit would apply to first-time prescriptions. The measure, House Bill 3947, received unanimous approval in the House this week and is headed to a conference committee to work out differences with a Senate bill (S. 2022) that is backed by Gov. Charlie Baker.

Baker also wants to let doctors involuntarily commit patients to drug treatment facilities for up to 72 hours. Sanchez says that would strain an already overburdened hospital system, and believes it's more important patients get a rapid evaluation, as called for in the House measure.

"When people are in the throes of the disease and they end up in an emergency room, they have to be evaluated within a 24-hour period, so that they can see if treatment is the way that they want to go," Sanchez says. "Because one thing that we do know about this disease is that it's very individual, it's very personal, and people come in and out."

Sanchez says the House version of the bill would also increase drug education programs for students, starting in the third grade.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA