In Buffalo, A.G. Schneiderman & U.S. Attorney Hochul Detail Plans To Combat Prescription Drug Epidemic

Law Enforcement Officials Join Forces At Rx Drug Conference To Address Growing Crisis

Schneiderman's “I-STOP” System Could Serve As National Model For Other States To Fight Epidemic On Unified Front


BUFFALO – In response to the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse in New York State,  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman partnered with U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. today in Buffalo to host a conference titled, "A Call to Action: Combating the Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic."  The conference brought together experts from the fields of law enforcement, medicine and education to address America's prescription drug crisis.

As part of this effort, Attorney General Schneiderman today discussed his "Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act," or I-STOP, legislation which would create an online database to report and track the prescription and dispensing of certain controlled substances in order to prevent abuses and clamp down on illegal drug distribution.

"The epidemic of prescription drug abuse is infecting our communities and destroying families in Western New York and throughout the state. It is imperative to combat this dangerous crisis with innovative solutions," said Attorney General Schneiderman.  "I-STOP provides health care providers with an important tool to treat patients, identify and help addicts and fight trafficking. I want to thank U.S. Attorney William Hochul for putting together today's conference and bringing attention to an issue that impacts all of us."

“Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest growing drug problem and we here in Western New York are not immune to it,” said William J. Hochul, Jr., United States Attorney for the Western District of New York. “It is an epidemic that is ruining the lives of our young, veterans, the elderly and many others. I believe it is time to address the problem of prescription pill abuse in as comprehensive a manner as possible. What is needed is a multidisciplinary approach from every angle including the medical, education and law enforcement communities.”  

The “Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act,” or “I-STOP,” would provide health care practitioners and pharmacists with centralized information to avoid over-prescribing, help shut down prescription drug trafficking, and identify and treat patients who seek to abuse prescription drugs. Attorney General Schneiderman’s program bill expands on a proposal made by Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D – Staten Island), who is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly. In the Senate, the bill is sponsored by Andrew J. Lanza (R – Staten Island).

The I-STOP initiative to address the prescription drug abuse epidemic includes:

  • Establishing a real time on-line database to track prescriptions issued by doctors
  • Tracking of drugs dispensed by pharmacists
  • Facilitating prosecution of illegal distribution

The I-STOP plan will protect against:

  • Doctor shopping
  • Forged prescriptions
  • Altered prescriptions

According to the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drug abuse is the country’s second most prevalent illegal drug problem, and recent reports and studies have documented corresponding data in the state. For example:

  • In Western New York,  a Buffalo News investigation found 3 of the most abused narcotic painkillers (oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl) are prescribed by doctors at a significantly higher rate than in the rest of the state. The use of hydrocodone increased by more than twice the state average between 2007 and 2009.
  • In Buffalo, New York’s largest methadone clinic outside of New York City, Catholic Health System, is beginning to reorganize its service to accommodate an increase in care needed to treat the number of addicted expected mothers and their newborns;
  • This past summer, as the drug manufacturer of OxyContin altered its current formula to prevent abuse, prescriptions for another opioid, Opana ER increased. In Nassau County, Medicaid prescriptions for OxyContin decreased 43 percent, while Medicaid prescriptions for Opana ER increased 45 percent during the same time period.

I-STOP would amend the New York State Public Health Law to establish a controlled substance reporting system by setting up an online, real-time database. Health care practitioners and pharmacists would be required to report specific information to the database when Schedule II, III, IV, and V controlled substances are prescribed and dispensed. Such controlled substances include: oxycodone and morphine (Schedule II); vicodin (Schedule III); Xanax and Klonopin (Schedule IV); and pyrovalerone (Schedule V).

In addition to reporting the information, practitioners and pharmacists will be required to consult the I-STOP database before prescribing and dispensing a Schedule II, III, IV, or V controlled drug. Practitioners will be able to ensure, among other things, that the prescription is “medically necessary,” and that the patient receiving the prescription is not an addict or habitual user.  Pharmacists will be able to ensure that the prescription presented matches prescription data reported by a practitioner to the I-STOP database.  The New York State Department of Health will be responsible for maintaining the database.

This enhancement of the state’s prescription drug monitoring program will assist in patient care, and also help crack down on ‘doc-shopping,’ the practice of visiting several different doctors and pharmacies for prescription drugs. With real-time information, physicians and pharmacists will be able to track potential abuses, treat addiction, and stop those who enable and profit off of the illegitimate use of prescribed drugs.

I-STOP would also require practitioners, pharmacists and law enforcement officials to complete continuing education programs on the proper uses of the substance reporting system. The proposed legislation prohibits the disclosure of all the data collected in the online database, unless authorized by law. Prescription drug monitoring programs operate in 43 states.