For Immediate Release - January 12, 2016

AG Healey Lends Support for CDC Guidelines Around Opioid Prescribing

Proposed Guidelines Help Change the Culture around Dispensing Addictive Painkillers

BOSTON – While in Washington D.C. speaking with federal officials about ways to address the growing opioid addiction epidemic nationwide, Attorney General Maura Healey announced her support for guidelines proposed by the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve prescribing practices and change the culture around prescribing of these pills.

In a letter pdf format of AG Letter CDC Guideline
file size 1MB sent Monday to Dr. Debra Houry, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, AG Healey commended the agency for drafting guidelines that will provide much-needed information to primary care providers across the country about when and how opioids should be prescribed for chronic pain – creating a single, nationwide, evidence-based standard. 

The United States consumes 80 percent of the world’s opioid supply, and 4 out of 5 heroin addicts started with prescription pills. The guidelines make clear that addictive opioids should not be the initial treatment for chronic pain and should only be used where their benefits outweigh the risks. AG Healey urged the CDC to finalize the guidelines as soon as possible.

“The opiate epidemic has had a devastating impact in Massachusetts, and in so many other parts of the country,” AG Healey said. “We have to change the culture around prescribing. We are 5 percent of the world’s population but we consume 80 percent of the opioid supply. It’s clear that we need to change how and why these drugs are prescribed and we must do so now before we lose an entire generation to this epidemic.”

Deaths from opioid-related overdoses more than doubled in Massachusetts between 2011 and 2014, with more than 1,250 people believed to have died here in 2014. In Massachusetts alone, there were 4,664,391 prescriptions for Schedule II and III opioids in 2014. That is a prescription for nearly every adult in Massachusetts.

Last night, AG Healey took part in a screening of a new HBO documentary about the opioid addiction crisis on Cape Cod at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C., where she announced her support for the CDC’s prescribing guidelines. Tonight AG Healey has been invited to attend President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address.

Addressing the growing addiction crisis in Massachusetts continues to be a top priority for Attorney General Healey. The AG’s Office is looking at a host of other practices, from marketing by pharmaceutical companies, to dispensing by pharmacies, to pill diversion and drug trafficking by criminal entities, to coverage for substance abuse treatment by insurance companies. The AG’s Office is also working on solutions that include eliminating barriers to treatment, and supporting prevention and education initiatives across the state.

AG Healey is also working on solutions, including making the life-saving overdose reversal drug Narcan more affordable and widely available, eliminating barriers to treatment, and supporting prevention and education initiatives across the state. In November, AG Healey announced with the Department of Public Health that first responders can now purchase naloxone, the generic version of Narcan, at a discounted rate of $20 per unit.

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