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A proposed Massachusetts bill would require doctors to participate in a prescription drug monitoring program. Currently participation in the program is voluntary.

The bill’s supporters say it is aimed at stopping people who shop for doctors to prescribe medications that can be abused or sold illegally, according to State House News Service.

The state’s Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse voted this week to recommend passage of the bill. The committee said 50 people a month in the state die from opioid-related overdoses.

The article notes a Massachusetts law that went into effect this year expanded the state’s electronic prescription monitoring database to include more drugs, but did not make doctor participation in the program mandatory.

The bill also includes a “Good Samaritan” clause, granting limited immunity from drug possession charges to drug overdose victims and witnesses. They would not be granted immunity from drug trafficking or distribution charges.

Other aspects of the bill include:

•    Doctors and hospitals would have to notify parents of minors under 18 who have been treated for drug or alcohol overdoses.
•    Prescriptions for controlled substances would need to be written on a “tamper resistant” form.
•    Pharmacists would be allowed to review customers’ prescription histories before dispensing a controlled substance, and could not dispense certain drugs prescribed by doctors outside of bordering states.
•    The Department of Public Health would need to create pamphlets for doctors to distribute with certain drugs that have a potential for abuse, including information on the dangers of misuse and abuse, drug disposal, and addiction support resources.
•    Public defenders and some court employees would be educated about substance abuse issues.

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