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August 29, 2016

New MA Prescription Monitoring Program Goes Live August 22, 2016


On Monday, August 22, 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Health (“DPH”) launched a new Prescription Monitoring Program (“PMP”) database, known as the Massachusetts Prescription Awareness Tool or “MassPAT.”

DPH reportedly spent $6 million to upgrade the former PMP database with the new MassPAT system. Like MassPAT, the former database provided authorized prescribers and pharmacists access to a patient’s history for all Schedule II through IV controlled substances prescribed in Massachusetts for the previous twelve-month period. MassPAT, however, offers an enhanced platform that allows authorized users quicker access to the prescribing data and reports. DPH has also represented that MassPAT is compatible with Massachusetts healthcare providers’ electronic medical record systems and is interoperable with PMPs in several neighboring states. At present, MassPAT includes data sharing with Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont. By the end of August, DPH expects MassPAT to allow data sharing with New York and further connectivity with Maine and New Hampshire will likely follow in the near future. The expansive reach of the MassPAT will serve to inform clinical decision-making and prevent duplicate prescribing between states.

With limited exceptions, DPH regulations presently require prescribers to perform a search of the PMP prior to the prescribing of certain medications, such as narcotics and benzodiazepines, to a patient for the first time. In addition, the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Opioid Prescribing Guidelines, which have been adopted by the Board of Registration in Medicine, recommend that prescribers check the PMP every 60 to 90 days for patients receiving opioids to treat chronic pain. As a result of the landmark opioid legislation that Governor Charlie Baker signed into law in March, Massachusetts law will require more frequent use of the PMP in the upcoming months. Effective October 15, 2016, prescribers must query the PMP each time they prescribe an opioid or benzodiazepine medication to most patients.

According to data from DPH, less than half of prescribers who issued 200 or more prescriptions for Schedule II narcotics in 2015 performed a search of the PMP that year. Given the marked increase in opioid-related deaths over the past decade, with 1,500 reported opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2015 alone, providers can expect opioid prescribing to remain a high priority for law enforcement agencies and licensing boards for the foreseeable future. Strict adherence to the current regulations and guidance regarding opioid prescribing, including regular use of the MassPAT PMP database, could substantially mitigate enforcement risk and, hopefully, prevent opioid-related deaths.

Please check this website for upcoming notices and informational materials regarding MassPAT.


MassPAT Tutorial Videos

Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Prescription Monitoring Program Discussion Document; Summer 2016

Massachusetts Department of Public Health, MA Prescription Monitoring Program County-Level Data Measures; August 2016

Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Prescription Monitoring Program Annual Report; April 2016

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain; March 18, 2016

Massachusetts Medical Society, Opioid Therapy and Physician Communication Guidelines; last updated on August 20, 2015

Massachusetts Medical Society: Webinar: Incorporating the Opioid Prescribing Guidelines Into Practice

About the Authors

Elizabeth Foley

Elizabeth Foley is an attorney in the firm’s Health Law practice, where she brings over 25 years of specialized experience in health care corporate and litigation actions involving health care fraud and abuse, Medicare, Medicaid and third-party payer billing and coding audits, white-collar civil and criminal investigations, and physician and other health care practitioner disciplinary matters. She also advises clients on corporate and transactional matters, including ensuring compliance with all state and federal rules and regulations. Elizabeth served as an assistant attorney general in the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General for ten years and as senior counsel in Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Inc.’s Fraud Investigation and Prevention Unit. You can find her on LinkedIn.

Mikaela Taberner

Mikaela Taberner is an attorney in Donoghue Barrett & Singal's Health Law practice, where she represents many types health care providers. She provides general business and corporate legal services on a wide range of issues, such as regulatory and corporate compliance, vendor contracting, HIPAA, Board of Registration issues, and healthcare fraud and abuse. You can find her on LinkedIn.


Health Law