New regulations on addictive painkillers

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Massachusetts largest health insurer is taking steps they say could help curb the drug problem in our state. They’re limiting the number of narcotics their members can get.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts claims they’ve already kept 6.6 million potent painkillers out of circulation. It’s the result of a new program they’ve implemented over the last 18 months  to help  reduce the state’s drug problems.

“They’ve tried so many things say no to drugs, do this, do that and nothing seems to work, just seems to get worse and worse,” said Westfield’s Pat Arsenault.

Blue Cross is limiting the quantity of potent and sometimes addictive prescription  narcotics their members can get. Things like Percocet, Vicodin and Oxycontin.

Patients are now limited to 30, down from the lengthy prescriptions they used to be able to get.

“If after 30 days of taking these potent medications the physicians will need to evaluate the patient and just call us and tell us why they need to be on more than 30 days,” said John Fallon, Chief Physician Executive at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Cancer patients and those with terminal illness are exempt from the strict regulations.

While there are obvious positive benefits to the program, some health officials in Springfield say there is a downside. It does increase their workload.

“We deal with multiple payers, they each have their own programs, their own requirements for information and follow-up and that’s fairly burdensome on provider offices,” said Dr. Glenn Alli, who also said he’d like to see a state-wide standard.

Blue Cross decided to revise its regulations after an internal review showed that more than 30,000 of its members received prescriptions lasting longer than 30 days for drugs such like Percocet and Vicodin.

Other insurers in Massachusetts say they also have safeguards to fight painkiller abuse.

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