Opioid prescriptions in Massachusetts have dropped by 28%

FILE - In this March 7, 2017, file photo, Paul "Rip" Connell, CEO of Private Clinic North, a methadone clinic, shows a 35-mg liquid dose of methadone at the clinic in Rossville, Ga. The Food and Drug Administration issued new warnings Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, about the dangers of combining medication for opioid addiction with anti-anxiety medicines and other drugs that also slow breathing and brain activity. (AP Photo/Kevin D. Liles, File)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Painkillers have fueled Massachusetts’ opioid epidemic for years. That’s why the state launched a new tool last year to fight the opioid epidemic.

According to new data released by the state, “MassPAT,” The Massachusetts Prescription Awareness Tool has been used more than six and a half million times since its inception last year.

Baystate Health’s Chair of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Niels Rathlev told 22News, MassPAT allows doctors and pharmacists to check a patient’s prescription history with a mouse-click. “Prescribers in the emergency department have to utilize the database before they write a prescription for opioids.”

It also lets them share that data with 31 states, including all of New England.

Governor Charlie Baker said the tool is one of several steps that has helped the state cut down on opioid prescriptions by 28% over the past few years.

Despite that progress, Dr. Rathlev said they’re still seeing a large amount of opioid overdoses. “We are still seeing overdoses, we’re still seeing deaths due to opioid overdoses, and I don’t think that trend has changed.”

Last year alone, more than 2,000 people died from opioid overdoses in Massachusetts.

Dr. Rathlev said although we’re still seeing a lot of overdose deaths, the database is still a step in the right direction.