Sen. Eric Lesser Sends Letter Urging Gov. Baker’s Opioid Task Force to Recommend Two Key Measures

BOSTON--Senator Eric P. Lesser submitted a letter this week urging Governor Charlie Baker’s Opioid Abuse Task Force to include his legislation that would close the pharmacy shopping and establish the bulk purchasing of the anti-overdose drug Narcan in its list of recommendations for a statewide strategy to combat opioid addiction and curb overdose deaths in the Commonwealth. “I hope you will consider joining with the Senate and including these provisions in your recommendations to Governor Baker,” the letter states. “Together, we can combat this crisis with smart policy.”

In late May, the state Senate unanimously adopted a budget amendment filed by Senator Lesser aiming to curb prescription drug abuse and reduce the state’s alarming rate of opioid overdose deaths.

Specifically, the amendment reduces the length of time pharmacies must report to the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) from the current 7 days to 24 hours, as recommended by the Department of Public Health’s Drug Control Program in a February 2015 report, to assist in faster identification of pharmacy shopping and more effective prevention of overdose deaths.

Massachusetts State Police reported 217 suspected heroin overdose deaths during the first three months of 2015, a figure that doesn’t include the state’s three largest cities.

In addition, the anti-overdose drug Narcan has saved hundreds of lives in cases of heroin overdose, but first responders across Massachusetts have noted that its price is skyrocketing with growing demand.

To help municipalities purchase Narcan at a cheaper rate, Senator Lesser filed a bill requiring a study of different bulk purchasing options the state could offer. The bill’s framework was incorporated into the Senate’s FY16 budget proposal, which creates a program for cities and towns to order the lifesaving overdose reversal drug at a discounted rate via statewide bulk-purchasing, and creates opportunities for similar programs for other drugs of public health concern.

“The opioid crisis is destroying neighborhoods, families, and hundreds if not thousands of lives,” Lesser said. “Gov. Baker and I agree that state government must act swiftly in cooperation with first responders on the ground to reverse its direction, and I believe these recommended actions will be of great help to those efforts."