Senate adopts Lesser's anti-pharmacy shopping amendment

Shira Schoenberg, MassLive The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday unanimously adopted a proposal by State Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, that would require pharmacies to report opioid drug purchases to a statewide Prescription Monitoring Program within a day, rather than a week.

The goal is to prevent drug addicts from pharmacy shopping, fulfilling one prescription at multiple pharmacies.

"This measure is a crucial step in our overall efforts to fight the opioid crisis here in Massachusetts, which has led to the destruction of families, communities and hundreds of lives," Lesser said in a statement.

The amendment was co-sponsored by State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, who chairs the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse and has been a long-time advocate for addressing issues related to drug abuse.

Changing the reporting time was a recommendation of a February report by the Department of Public Health's Drug Control Program.

The $38 billion budget passed by the state Senate late Thursday also adopted another provision based on a bill filed by Lesser that would allow for the creation of a bulk purchasing system for the anti-overdose drug, Narcan.

In the state budget, senators took numerous steps to address the growing number of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts. They proposed earmarking money to create two new recovery high schools to support teenagers in recovery, and to add 150 new post-detox treatment beds. The budget would put $10 million into a substance abuse trust fund, which focuses on a range of treatment services.

The House also stressed substance abuse prevention in its budget, though in slightly different ways.

According to state statistics, more than 1,000 Massachusetts residents died of opioid overdoses in 2014 compared to 668 in 2012.

The House and Senate versions of the budget will now go to a committee of House-Senate negotiators to iron out the differences.

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