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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest health insurer, is instituting a policy to reduce prescription drug abuse, by limiting the amount of pain medicine most patients can get without prior approval from the company.

The new policy, which will go into effect July 1, allows patients to fill a 15-day prescription, plus one additional 15-day supply of common painkillers, such as Vicodin and Percocet. Any more refill requests must be reviewed by the company. The patient’s doctor will have to assure that several requirements have been met, such as patient counseling about the risk of developing an addiction to the medication. Future prescriptions will have to be written by only one physician, and filled at the same pharmacy or chain, to curb “doctor shopping,” The Boston Globe reports.

Cancer patients, and those with a terminal illness, will be exempt from the new policy.

The Massachusetts Medical Society says it is concerned about the amount of paperwork the new policy will require. “We don’t want the primary role of physicians to be lost by layers of administrative work,’’ Dr. Lynda Young, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, told the newspaper. She said the group is willing to work with Blue Cross to make the new program more manageable for doctors.

Dr. John Fallon, Blue Cross’ top physician executive, said the plan balances patients’ need with a way to help curb the oversupply of opioids.

A spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a national trade group, said he did not know whether any other insurers are using similar policies to stem prescription drug abuse.


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