NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 28, 2014

Patrick orders steps to address opiate abuse emergency

(Continued)

“Zohydro is a potentially lethal narcotic painkiller, depending on whether or not it’s ingested quickly, swallowed right away,” Patrick said.

The drug is not tamper-proof, Patrick said, meaning it is easily crushed and redistributed.

Zogenix Inc., a California-based drug company that manufactures Zohydro, describes its use “for the management of pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment and for which alternative treatment options are inadequate.”

A spokeswoman for the company could not be immediately reached for comment.

Earlier this week, Patrick sent letters to Congressman Stephen Lynch and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in support of efforts at the federal level to ban Zohydro. Patrick expressed concerns about the potential for the drug to be easily abused and worsen opiate abuse in Massachusetts.

Families affected by addiction have raised the level of attention among state policymakers, Patrick said. When speaking to families, Patrick said he was struck by the “hit or miss nature” in the way people find recovery services that work for them.

Patrick is also dedicating $20 million to beef up budgets at substance abuse treatment programs. The money is being redirected from other DPH budget line items, and does not need legislative approval, according to a Patrick spokeswoman, who nonetheless said Patrick will seek lawmakers’ approval.

DPH will also mandate that physicians and pharmacies use prescription drug monitoring to prevent abuse and misuse. This is currently a voluntary program. Patrick said there must be more rigor around overprescribing, which often leads to addiction.

Other directives include requiring an expanded Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention to make recommendations in 60 days on further actions that can be taken; and issuance of a public health advisory to educate the public about opioid addiction treatment options.

Bartlett told the News Service the public health declaration is not often used, and she feels it is time to take the action. “I totally support the governor doing this. I feel this is an amazing opportunity to address a nationwide problem,” Bartlett said.

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