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November 16, 2015

Drug loss, tampering reports up in Mass.

From January of this year through the end of August, more instances of drug loss and tampering have been reported to the state's prescription monitoring program than in all of 2014.

A report submitted to the Legislature recently from the Department of Public Health's Office of Prescription Monitoring and Drug Control logs 751 instances of drug loss or tampering reported to the office's drug inspection unit in 2014. From Jan. 1, 2015, through Aug. 31, there have been 863.

"The one thing I've always believed in is that more reporting is good," said Jonathan Mundy, director of the office. "If we saw a 30 percent downtick in reported losses and tamperings from this year to next year, I'd be more concerned than if I saw a reported increase."

Mundy said that there are a variety of possible reasons for the increase, including a higher number of prescribers registered in the program and increased attention to theft or loss brought on by a focus on combating opioid addiction and drug abuse.

"People are just becoming more vigilant and erring on the side of caution in reporting," he said.

As of the end of August, approximately 84.7 percent of the state's practitioners -- including physicians, dentists and podiatrists -- and 59 percent of mid-level prescribers -- advanced practice nurses and physician assistants -- were enrolled in the monitoring program. All prescribers are required by law to enroll, but Mundy said the numbers of practitioners in the state include those who are licensed in Massachusetts but do not practice or prescribe here.

The report calls prescription monitoring programs "important tools to support safe and appropriate prescribing" that can help medical professionals identify patients who might be misusing or abusing prescription drugs.

Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker said that part of the reason the state is looking to update is prescription monitoring program is so that officials here can collaborate and share information with their counterparts in other states.

"One of the things we're hoping to do with our upgrade, which should be in place by the end of the year, and some of the other folks are trying to do with their updates as well is to get to the point where all of us are in the position where our data is crossing borders so that people won't be able to basically drug shop from state to state," Baker said.

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