Mass. Medical Society Applauds Passage of Partial-fill Legislation

WALTHAM — The president of the Mass. Medical Society (MMS) said Congress has taken a significant step forward in the battle against opioids and prescription-drug abuse with the passage by the Senate yesterday of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). The House had previously passed the bill, and President Obama has indicated he will sign it into law.

CARA incorporates several pieces of legislation, including one — the Reducing Unused Medications Act — that allows for partial-fill prescriptions of opioids.

The bipartisan bills on partial-fill prescriptions were originally co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, and the provision for partial-fill prescriptions was one Massachusetts physicians had aggressively supported.

“We applaud and thank Senator Warren and Congresswoman Clark for their support and leadership on fighting the opioid epidemic,” said MMS President Dr. James Gessner. “The ability of physicians to write partial-fill prescriptions will help to reduce the amount of unused pain medicines, thereby limiting the number of drugs that can be diverted.”

Estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicate that the majority of individuals — up to 70{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} — who misuse or abuse pain medications get them from prescriptions written for friends or family, commonly described as diversion.

Gessner said the medical society had been advocating for partial-fill prescriptions because they would help patients balance the need to relieve pain with an adequate supply of medication by filling only part of the prescription. Should they need additional pain relief, he said, patients will be able to return to the pharmacy to fill the remaining portion of their prescription. With few exceptions, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regulations had previously prevented partial-fill prescriptions; this new provision contained in CARA will allow states to pass legislation for partial-fill prescriptions.

“Physicians have recognized that, in their efforts to reduce patients’ pain, too many prescriptions have been written,” Gessner said. “This overprescribing has led to the diversion of medications, which has contributed to the misuse and abuse of these powerful medicines.”

While he commended the passage of CARA, Gessner at the same time expressed concern over the legislation’s shortfall in funding other important efforts to combat the crisis.

“Physicians will work with our congressional delegation to advocate for funding these critical programs,” he said. “Efforts at treatment and prevention must be adequately funded if we are to be successful in addressing this public-health crisis.”

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