| WALTHAM, Mass., June 17
WALTHAM, Mass., June 17 The governors of five
New England states said on Tuesday they would begin to share
data on prescriptions to cut down on "doctor shopping," with
heroin addiction and overdose deaths on the rise as a result of
prescription painkiller abuse.
The goal is to stop patients who have become dependent on
opioid painkillers, which include Vicodin and Percocet, from
visiting multiple doctors, typically without the doctors'
knowledge, to obtain large amounts of the drugs.
Such painkillers are often prescribed after surgeries and
major dental procedures.
"People get introduced to a drug and enjoy the use of that
product and that, in many cases, leads to doctor or clinic
shopping and that shopping doesn't necessarily honor state
borders," said Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.
Dependence on those drugs can escalate into addiction to
heroin, which is often cheaper, said Massachusetts Governor
"Narcotic painkillers have become a route to heroin as well
here in (Massachusetts) as well as around the region," Patrick
Patrick, Malloy and their peers from Vermont, New Hampshire
and Rhode Island said the states would create a registry to help
prevent multiple doctors prescribing the same pain medications
to the same patient.
More than 16,000 people die in the United States each year
from overdoses of prescription opioid drugs, according to the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The five states will also collaborate on developing an ad
campaign to illustrate the dangers of the drugs, share treatment
resources for addicts who seek help and work to develop
guidelines intended to limit the number pills prescribed at any
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who devoted the entirety of
his annual state of the state address this year to the problem,
said he does not believe the region is facing a higher rate of
opioid drug abuse than other states.
"The problem is no worse in New England than it is in the
other states I think the difference is that we happened to have
a group of governors who recognize that this is a crisis that
affects all the people we work for every day as governors," he
Malloy later on Tuesday is due to sign into a law a measure
allowing anyone in Connecticut to administer the opioid-overdose
antidote drug naloxone to someone believed to be overdosing. The
state had previously allowed only licensed healthcare
practitioners to do so.
A Massachusetts program to train civilians to use naloxone
has reversed close to 3,000 overdoses, about five times as many
as police have stopped.
Maine's Paul LePage, the region's lone Republican governor,
did not attend the meeting due to a scheduling conflict. LePage
in the past has opposed expanding access to naloxone, saying
that it could encourage addicts to avoid treatment.
But the issue does not break down along party lines
nationally. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Tuesday
that his state would begin issuing naloxone to police statewide.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Jim Loney)