Massachusetts increasing its monitoring of prescription painkillers

Massachusetts’ Online Prescription Monitoring Program collects prescribing and dispensing information for prescription medications that are subject to abuse, such as painkillers and stimulants. The idea behind reporting is to prevent the same person from obtaining controlled substances from multiple sources and to track doctors and pharmacies that have a tendency to “overprescribe” potentially abusive drugs.

Essentially, the PMP program looks to reduce the number of “doctor shopping” incidents where a dealer or user visits numerous doctors in order to obtain a significant number of drugs that can lead to abuse and addiction.

Recently the PMP enforcement program received added support. In 2012, Massachusetts passed a law requiring practitioners who prescript certain controlled substances to register for the state’s PMP program. The PMP program, which began in 1992, suffered from very little participation. In 2010, when Massachusetts began its online reporting program, only 1,700 out of approximately 40,000 practitioners in the state voluntarily chose to participate. While that resulted in 3.5 million reported “Schedule II” drugs such as oxycodone and meperidine, that number is a fraction of an industry and represents millions of dollars in incarceration costs alone.

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued several grants to Massachusetts to implement other provisions to the program.

In addition to mandatory reporting, the new law also:

Potential consequences of a drug possession or trafficking charge

Massachusetts, much like federal law, punishes illegal drug possession and drug dealing according to the type and amount found intended to be distributed.Trafficking a Schedule II drug carries a mandatory five year prison sentence. As the amount of the substance increases, so does the penalty. Large amounts of Schedule II drugs intended for distribution can lead to up to 20 years in jail.

Possession of a Schedule II substance can lead to up to a year in jail, and a second offense can double that jail time. Besides oxycodone, oxycontin and other prescription drugs, Schedule II controlled substances include methamphetamine and cocaine, among others.

People in Massachusetts facing drug trafficking or drug possession charges should immediately contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer to discuss their rights.