Testimony for Prescription Monitoring Program Hearing 5/25/10
My name is Joanne Peterson from Learn to Cope, a peer support organization for families dealing with a
loved one addicted to Opiates and other drugs. To date we have 1480 families registered on our website,
two chapters in Massachusetts with two more starting in July and August of this year. It’s not unusual to
see 80 to 100 parents attending our South Shore chapter and our North Shore chapter grows continuously. I
felt it’s important for me to be here today to represent all our families from all over Massachusetts who’s
sons, daughters, sisters, brothers or Mothers and Fathers are addicted to drugs like OxyContin, Percocet and
heroin and other highly addictive drugs by prescription or illegally bought from someone who obtained a
prescription. It’s not unusual that the very person addicted was prescribed it for an injury for moderate pain
and later became addicted.
We hear the real life stories weekly and all too often they are the same. There are a few very common
factors with prescriptions that we believe if the PMP program became solid with the recommendations we
are hearing about today it could change the course in which this epidemic is going and I am coming from
the trenches here, this is real. People are dying every single day, many of them young people between the
ages of 15-25 within our groups. I know them, I see them suffer and try to find themselves again and I have
been there as their families bury them when they lose the battle as I did last week for a young man from
Everyone in this room knows how this begins so I do not need to explain that. What I want to make clear is
if something is not done it will only continue to get worse.
One issue we often see is physicians prescribing these drugs for pain when something like Motrin may
make more sense, or if someone in recovery tells them so to try to work with them to give them a non
narcotic pain reliever. We also hear story after story of people struggling with finding recovery going to a
Psychiatrist only to walk out with Benzodiazepines’ in which quite often is traded later when they relapse
for Heroin or other Opiates or someone on Methadone Maintenance being prescribed Klonipin and later
overdosing when they abuse it which we know can be a large part of the addiction they suffer from.
We constantly deal with this and we understand anxiety is a real issue and pain is a real issue but there has
to be a solid set of guidelines, it’s time. Relapse is a part of someone struggling with early Recovery and if
someone who suffers from the addiction is handed Benzo’s it will be very hard for them to NOT abuse
them. There has to be safer way to deal with someone suffering from anxiety, again a symptom of their
very addiction BEFORE benzo’s are prescribed. As we all know mixed with Opiates such as Methadone
it’s a deadly combination and I have seen more than one person lose their life that way maybe not even
realizing that when on Methadone maintenance taking too much Klonipin can kill them, and it has it’s a
toxic deadly situation. We hear the stories over and over about an injury that turns in to a deadly addiction.
We have some major issues here and although it may be an inconvenience for a pharmacist to take a few
extra minutes to ask for identification for a prescription what they need to realize is a bottle of 30 pills can
be sold very easily. This is a public safety issue, putting this in place may save someone’s child. My
daughter is 23 and she tells me she wants to move out of state because she is so tired of seeing so many
friends abusing Percocet’s, she says it’s the new “weed”. This is a deadly issue, a public safety issue and
children need to be protected.
We are in the midst of an Opiate crisis or as Learn to Cope members say, “an epidemic”. If measures and
steps are not taken now to get a handle on this issue the death and addiction toll will only continue to rise. I
can’t imagine why anyone would not want to have a solid PMP program in place, inconvenience or not it’s
a matter of life and death.
I and most people would have no problem showing my ID to pick up a prescription. I am grateful for my
Doctor who prescribes non narcotic pain pills such as Tramadol to young teens with injuries. Stricter
measures can save a lot of lives. Frauds are picking up prescriptions as we speak today and they are landing
in the hands of High School students and young adults. If a liquor store owner asks for Identification for
Alcohol to be sure a person is of age why can’t we have a pharmacist ask for ID for a pill that to us is
comparable to a loaded gun when used for purposes other than “taken as prescribed”. A legal prescription
given to my then 18 year old son and 4 other boys in my community was comparable to a gun shot wound
to the knees the handicap will be there for life, it changed him forever and eventually turned him in to a
Heroin addict and his story is the same as thousands in this state and across the North East and other parts
of the country. Today he is fortunate to be alive and clean and sober, but it comes with a lot of pain for him
and for our family, even today.
A pharmacist taking the extra moment to check identification before dispensing a dangerous addictive drug
should NOT be an issue especially today with Opiate Overdose being the number one cause of death
surpassing car accidents and homicides in our state and in other states across the country. The statistics are
There, it can no longer be ignored. We need to think of the lives that could be saved if we could get a
handle on this and the pain that could potentially be avoided
We know that in the case of Dr Brown in Sandwich who had 2000 patients and had patients coming from
as far away as Worcester to obtain their OxyContin Pharmacists and Law Enforcement constantly
complained to the Massachusetts Medical Board. In fact he was sent to classes on how to “not prescribe so
mush pain medicine” he completed the classes and then went right back to work for 5 more years and later
was arrested after being caught buying his own prescriptions back from patients and being the top
prescriber in the state prescribing 1/3 of all Oxy Contin prescriptions.
We need to fight for public safety. We need a solid program with stricter rules and yes that means checking
identification including out of state mail orders even if it’s an inconvenience, Obtaining positive
identification before dispensing, authorizing the department to share information about potential diversion
and reporting to law enforcement.
It’s a sad day in this country that we need to take these measures but it’s necessary to protect the public.
I attended the hearing yesterday and I am grateful to see these discussions taking place and allowing
families to be heard. I need to comment on something from a speaker representing the pharmacy council as
I did yesterday at the hearing during my testimony. The speaker claimed that it would take a pharmacist an
additional three minutes to check identification when a patient comes to pick up a prescription and he
pointed out that it would add 180,000 work hours per year for pharmacists. I would have to argue that
180,000 additional work hours is a tiny fraction compared to the millions of people young and old losing
their lives to overdose. This is a matter of life and death, human lives. Our family members are worth
protection and they are not just numbers. The speaker also noted there was no solid evidence that this
measure needs to take place. My and thousands of other families who suffer watching our kids slowly die
strongly disagree. The death toll statistics speak for themselves. If that is not solid evidence then what is?