For Immediate Release - April 22, 2014

Governor Patrick Announces Immediate Restrictions on Powerful New Painkiller in Response to Public Health Emergency

BOSTON — Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick today announced several new actions to restrict the availability of hydrocodone-only extended-release medication that is not in abuse-deterrent form (commonly known as Zohydro), including a requirement that doctors complete a risk assessment and utilize the Prescription Monitoring Program before such medications can be prescribed to a patient.

“We are in the midst of a public health emergency around opioid abuse and we need to do everything in our power to prevent it from getting worse,” said Governor Patrick. “The broad actions we are taking to address the opioid epidemic will help save lives and give families struggling with addiction new hope.”

Today, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine voted to require individual prescribers to complete a risk assessment and pain management treatment agreement prior to prescribing any patient hydrocodone-only extended-release medication that is not in abuse-deterrent form. The agreement with each patient must address drug screening, pill counts, safe storage and disposal, and other requirements as appropriate in the prescriber’s judgment.

Additional state boards that regulate medical and pharmacist practice will meet soon to consider adopting further restrictions around opioids.

At the Governor’s direction, Commissioner of Public Health Cheryl Bartlett, RN, also issued an emergency order today requiring prescribers to utilize the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) prior to prescribing a hydrocodone-only extended release medication that is not in an abuse deterrent formulation. The PMP tracks prescriptions of controlled substances in the Commonwealth and is an important clinical decision-making tool for preventing misuse, overprescribing or diversion of prescription medications.

Commissioner Bartlett will also issue a notification to all prescribers in Massachusetts informing them of these restrictions. “The introduction of this new painkiller into the market poses a significant risk to individuals already addicted to opioids and to the public at large,” said Commissioner Bartlett. “These new safeguards are critical to prevent misuse.”

On March 27, Governor Patrick declared a public health emergency in Massachusetts in response to the growing opioid addiction epidemic. The Governor took the following actions to address the public health emergency: making Naloxone (Narcan) widely available to first responders and through standing orders in pharmacies; dedicating an additional $20 million to treatment and recovery services; accelerating the mandatory enrollment of prescribers in PMP; and re-tasking the Commonwealth’s Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention to address the opioid epidemic and make recommendations on further actions that can be taken.

Today’s actions come on the same day as the state’s previous ban on all prescribing and dispensing of Zohydro ends.

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