Monday, September 24, 2012
2012 candlelight vigil: State Representative Randy Hunt's remarks
Speakers included Dr. Robert Friedman from Gosnold Cape Cod, Janis McGrory, who lost her daughter last year from a drug overdose, Linda Decker, an instructor in administering Narcan, an overdose antidote, and Rachel Murphy, Lisa's daughter, who shared how her sister's addiction affected Rachel's teenage years.
I had the honor to deliver a message of a way forward, my most important objective for the next session of the legislature:
2012 Candlelight Vigil - A Way Forward
I thank everyone who came out this evening to participate in this vigil.
To remember a loved one who lives with or who has died with an addiction.
To keep the scourge of drug addiction not only on the radar, but front and center in the minds of everyone in our community.
To educate others so that they may recognize symptoms of drug addiction early and seek help for their loved ones.
To call for more resources to be spent on prevention and treatment of addicted individuals.
To provide hope for those who have given up.
At the risk of interrupting the solemness of this vigil, I must take advantage of our collective attention on the issue at hand to frame the problem we're facing and list some of the measures we're taking to improve our chances in this fight against drug addiction.
This past February, the Drug Enforcement Agency raided two Florida CVS pharmacies for illegal distribution of opiate drugs. Mark Trouville, special agent in charge of the DEA's Miami bureau, said at a press conference, that last year the two pharmacies, located only 5.5 miles apart in Sanford, Florida, ordered 3 million doses of the painkiller oxycodone. That compares to an national average of 69,000 doses per year per pharmacy.
Trouville said the pharmacies either knew, or should have known, that a large number of the prescriptions filled were not issued for a legitimate medical purpose. Red flags the pharmacies should have recognized included misspelled drug names, irregular dosing instructions, and phony telephone numbers on prescriptions.
In some instances, four or five people dropped off identical prescriptions from the same doctor at the same time, paid for by one person.*
The distributor of these oxycodone pills, Cardinal Health Incorporated, had its license suspended by the DEA a day before the pharmacy raids. Cardinal immediately obtained an injunction from a judge, reversing the license suspension and allowing their facility in Lakeville, Florida to resume shipments.
CVS Caremark Corporation said in a press release that it was "disappointed" in the DEA's action.
What else can a manager of the Cardinal Health distribution facility or one of these CVS pharmacies be thinking is going on, besides the obvious truth?
Two months later, the DEA searched six Walgreen's pharmacies and a distribution center, all in Florida, looking for evidence of more illegal distribution of opiate drugs. One of the Walgreen's stores had sold 80,000 oxycodone tablets in 2009, but in 2011 sold 1.7 million pills. Another of its pharmacy's sales jumped from 96,000 to 2.1 million.**
We know what's going on here.
The DEA knows what's going on here.
CVS and Walgreens know what's going on here.
The pharmaceutical companies know what's going on here.
These millions of pills are heading right up Interstate 95 from Florida on their way to every city on the Atlantic seaboard and into New England. Onto Cape Cod. Onto Main Street in Hyannis and every other Main Street in the fifteen towns of Barnstable County.
Some prescribers of pain medications are only now waking up to the fact that thousands of addicted persons here on Cape Cod got their start in a safe and professional health care services office.
A physician who didn't consider that too large a prescription of a highly addictive opioid drug could be the difference between adequate pain control and the beginning of an addiction.
An oral surgeon who failed to emphasis the danger of addiction to a teenager's parent after the removal of a wisdom tooth.
The average person assumes the safety of prescription drugs.
This is the backdrop that we worked with in developing Senate bill 2125, the prescription drug abuse bill that passed and was signed into law by the governor in August.
As the DEA continues to crack down on the Florida pill mills, there is a surge of people attempting to skip around the Interstate 95 pipeline by bringing forged and fraudulent prescriptions directly to Massachusetts pharmacies. Senate 2125 prohibits the filling of prescriptions for opiate drugs coming from outside the contiguous states to Massachusetts and the state of Maine.
Senate 2125 also requires the use of tamper resistant prescription pads, which are already in use for all Medicare and Medicaid patients.
For prescribers of opiate drugs, there is the requirement that they register in the Prescription Monitoring Program over the next three years and begin to consult the PMP database when accepting a new patient in order to curtail doctor shopping.
Also for prescribers, patients, court personnel, and others, there is a strong educational component aimed at raising the awareness of these drugs and their propensity to trigger addictive behaviors.
Between this bill and the repeat violent criminal legislation, also known as Melissa's Bill, we recognized the value of adding Good Samaritan protections for people reporting overdoses and of making Narcan, an overdosing antidote, more available.
Where do we go from here?
We must break the current paradigm and start focusing our efforts and resources on prevention and treatment. Massachusetts should take a look at "tough on crime" Texas to see what this shift in focus can do.
In 2005, Texas began reforming drug sentencing and shifting money to drug rehabilitation and prevention programs, which has saved the state billions of dollars and reduced crime, according to the Washington Post. Such reforms have earned the praise of unlikely bedfellows: NAACP President Ben Jealous and conservative activist Grover Norquist. The NAACP argues that sending people to jail for nonviolent drug offenses turns young people into hardened criminals and disproportionately affects black people, while Norquist argues that states waste taxpayer money locking up people who could be rehabilitated more cost-effectively.**
In August of last year, the Texas governor announced that the state would, for the first time in its history, close down a prison due to a reduced prison population and the lowest crime rate since 1973.
Currently, out of all the money spent in Massachusetts dealing with drug and alcohol abuse--for local, county and state police, for the court system, for the prison system, for the parole system--only 2 cents out of a dollar is spent on prevention and treatment.
Every dollar spent on effective treatment programs saves five to seven dollars spent on law enforcement, courts and prisons, according to a number of studies conducted over the last twenty years.
This is the direction we need to go.
And this is my message to you tonight.
Help me and all of your legislators convince leadership in both parties that the priority must shift from punishment to treatment for nonviolent drug offenders.
We can turn the corner on drug and alcohol addiction with the efforts of everyone here and the thousands like you across the commonwealth.
* DEA raids 2 CVS pharmacies in drug abuse probe - Reuters, February 6, 2012
** DEA Continues Corporate Responsibility Drive - Jesse C. Vivian, RPh, JD,, May 22, 2012
*** DEA raids 2 CVS pharmacies in drug abuse probe - Yahoo News - Liz Goodwin, August 3, 2011