Sen. Lesser Substance Abuse Bills included in House and Senate Compromise Budget

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the House and Senate accepted a compromise version of the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which included his proposals to close the pharmacy shopping loophole for highly addictive narcotics and to create a bulk-purchasing program for the anti-overdose drug Narcan. These measures aim to combat the opioid addiction crisis plaguing Western Massachusetts and the Commonwealth as a whole. Last year, over 1,000 people in Massachusetts died from opioid overdoses. “Both of these initiatives provide targeted solutions to a nationwide problem – opioid addiction – that has disproportionately hurt our corner of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Lesser. “With a simple shift to more frequent pharmacy reporting and the establishment of Narcan bulk-purchasing in Massachusetts, we’ll be able to spot addicts before an overdose happens and equip municipalities and their first responders with a potentially lifesaving drug.”

In January of this year, Senator Lesser filed An Act preventing prescription drug abuse by closing the pharmacy shopping loophole. This bill would reduce the length of time pharmacies must report the prescription of highly addictive narcotics from 7 days to 24-hours. Also in January, Senator Lesser filed An Act to improve the accessibility and affordability of naloxone and other pharmaceutical drugs of public health concern. This bill served as a blueprint for the Senate’s proposal to establish a statewide bulk-purchasing program of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, commonly known as Narcan. The bulk-purchasing program is meant to curb dramatic increases in the drug’s cost, just as it is most needed to combat the opiate epidemic.

Over the course of the last six months, Senator Lesser’s initiatives have gained the support of Governor Baker, Attorney General Healey, Senate President Rosenberg and other legislative leaders. Both of Senator Lesser’s policy proposals were included in Governor Baker’s Opioid Working Group recommendations for combating substance abuse. The Senate’s version of the FY16 state budget also included both proposals. A February 2015 report by the Department of Public Health’s Drug Control Program included Senator Lesser’s pharmacy shopping legislation in its list of recommendations as well.

The FY 16 compromise budget also includes provisions that:

  • Allocate $100,000 for the administration of a Narcan bulk-purchasing program;
  • Establish a multi-agency task force to review opportunities to negotiate bulk-purchasing discounts for non-Medicaid prescription drugs; and
  • Direct Medicaid and state agencies to identify cost-saving measures, including bulk purchasing consortiums, to curb unsustainable increases in prescription drug costs for all residents beyond Narcan.

The compromise budget will now head to the governor’s desk for his consideration and signature.