- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - After a federal judge struck down Massachusetts’ first-of-its-kind ban of the painkiller Zohydro, Gov. Deval Patrick is trying another approach: imposing more requirements on doctors who prescribe the powerful new drug.

The governor’s office announced late Tuesday that the state’s Board of Registration in Medicine has voted to require doctors to complete a risk assessment and “pain management treatment agreement” before prescribing drugs like Zohydro that are extended-release medications, contain only hydrocodone and are “not in abuse-deterrent form.”

Patrick’s public health commissioner also issued an emergency order requiring that prescribers use the state’s online Prescription Monitoring Program, which tracks prescriptions of controlled substances, before prescribing drugs like Zohydro.

The governor, in a statement, said further state restrictions around opioids could be forthcoming. “We are in the midst of a public health emergency around opioid abuse, and we need to do everything in our power to prevent it from getting worse,” Patrick said.

Earlier this month, Vermont issued similar requirements for prescribers of Zohydro but did not pursue an outright ban of the drug.

Patrick’s announcement comes after a federal judge prevented the state from enforcing its ban on Zohydro, which the governor issued through an executive order in late March as the drug was going to market.

U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel said in her decision last week that federal law pre-empted the governor’s order and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration already had approved the drug’s use for treatment of severe and chronic pain. The maker of the drug, San Diego-based Zogenix, had argued that Patrick’s ban violated the U.S. Constitution.

The state’s ban officially ended Tuesday. Patrick has said he won’t appeal the judge’s decision.

Zohydro contains up to five times the amount of narcotic hydrocodone previously available in pills. But some health authorities say the drug can be easily crushed and then inhaled or injected, making it susceptible to abuse.

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