BOSTON (CN) – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a comprehensive anti-opioid bill on Tuesday that increases substance-abuse services for those incarcerated in the commonwealth, while also barring the use of co-pay coupons that some drugmakers offer for opioids.
“The opioid and heroin crisis has tragically claimed scores of lives and broken families across the commonwealth, and this new bill will serve as our latest tool kit to address the public health crisis through increased access to treatment, education and prevention,” the Republican Baker said in a statement. “While there is still much work to do, this bipartisan bill will support the fight against this horrible epidemic by holding providers more accountable for prescribing practices, taking stronger steps to intervene earlier in a person’s life, and expanding access to recovery coaches.”
State Attorney General Maura Healey called the ban on opioid coupons of particular note.
“The use of coupons as a marketing tool for opioids is inappropriate and deadly,” said Healey, in a released statement. “I am grateful to the Legislature for passing a comprehensive opioid bill that includes this key provision and thank the governor for signing it into law.”
In June 2018, Healey brought a lawsuit against the drugmaker of OxyContin: Purdue Pharma LP and Purdue Pharma Inc., as well as their owners. To get more people to take its products and increase’ profits, according to the complaint, Purdue misled prescribers and consumers about the addiction and health risks of their opioids. Healey’s lawsuit specifically alleges that Purdue aggressively marketed its opioids and targeted its promotional efforts at vulnerable populations.
The state’s investigation has shown that Purdue considers its co-pay savings programs a critical component of its strategy to boost sales and is among the company’s most profitable marketing tools for OxyContin, generating $4.28 for every $1 the company gave away in coupons. Purdue’s sales materials show that with co-pay coupons, more new patients remain on OxyContin after 90 days when a savings card is redeemed. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, patients who stay on prescription opioids for more than 90 days are 30 times more likely to die of an overdose.
Tuesday’s marks the second major opioids bill that Baker has signed since taking office in 2015. In 2016 he signed a bill that limited opioid prescription lengths and increased school education about addiction.
Since 2015, the Baker-Polito administration has doubled spending to address the opioid crisis and added more than 1,200 treatment beds, including 768 adult substance use treatment beds at different treatment levels, and certified more than 168 Sober Homes, accounting for an additional 2,242 beds.
An act for prevention and access to appropriate care and treatment of addiction, which was sent to Governor Baker’s desk by the Democratic state Legislature, aims to reduce access to opioids by mandating a switch to electronic prescriptions for all opioids and making opioids more expensive by barring the use of manufacturer coupons.
The law also sets a statewide standing order for the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, which makes it easier for anyone to get access.
Another component of the law is its creation of a recovery-coach commission that will set up regulations and govern the credentialing of recovery coaches.
“Every individual with a substance use or co-occurring illness in the commonwealth should have access to quality treatment and the opportunity to live a long and healthy life,” Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said in a statement. “Addiction is a disease, and we must continue to break down the stigma that prevents individuals from seeking or receiving help. This bill takes aim at ensuring people get the treatment they need, where and when they need it, through a multi-year, comprehensive strategy. I am proud to stand with my colleagues in the treatment and recovery community and the Legislature today.”