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Mass. Senate Takes Aim At Prescription Drug Abuse

This article is more than 7 years old.

The state Senate has approved a bill aimed at stemming what has been called an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse.

The measure calls for stricter oversight of potentially addictive drugs — such as OxyContin and Vicodin — linked to thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of hospitalizations in Massachusetts.

The bill approved Thursday on a 36-0 vote would require all doctors who prescribe controlled substances to sign up for a state program that monitors and tracks the drugs. Participation is now voluntarily and officials say only a fraction of doctors have registered.

The measure also calls for the use of tamper-proof pads for writing painkiller prescriptions. It requires pharmacies to report any missing drugs to police.

"We have been working as a committee on the Rx drug legislation to try to put more systems in place to try to address this problem that has become really severe," said Rep. Liz Malia. "When you look at the number of deaths, it's frightening."

The bill, which now goes to the House, would also ban recreational drugs known as "bath salts."

The Massachusetts Medical Association is questioning how quickly state health officials can be prepared to register all the doctors who would be required to register.

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

This program aired on February 2, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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