BOSTON (CBS) – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is battling back against a growing concern with opiate abuse.

The insurer has become the first in the region, and possibly in the country, to cut back on prescribing popular pain medications.

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Executives say prescription painkillers are too easily accessible for patients.
So, under the plan, most patients get an initial 15-day prescription with just one refill, which is much less than in previous years.

“The program is to make sure people get the pain medication they need and get the right amount of those pain medications,” Blue Cross Chief Physician John Fallon told WBZ NewsRadio 1030. “They can get the medications where they were appropriate, but they weren’t getting 120 days.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jeff Brown reports

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The fear is that painkillers often lead to addiction, which can take patients on the road to heroin use and abuse.

The program has allowed Blue Cross to cut back by more than 6.5 million prescriptions in a year-and-a-half, which equates to a 20 percent decline in Percocet and 50 percent decline in Oxycontin prescriptions.

Blue Cross officials point out that cancer patients and those with terminal illnesses are exempt from the curbs.

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