A.G. Schneiderman Targets Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic In Capital Region & Across State

ALBANY – Addressing the growing wave of prescription drug abuse across New York State and in the Capital Region, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman proposed legislation to monitor the prescription and dispensing of certain controlled substances. The “Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act,” or “I-STOP,” would create an online database, providing doctors and pharmacists with a centralized information system that will help avoid over-prescribing, shut down prescription drug trafficking, and identify and treat patients who seek to abuse prescription drugs.

The Attorney General’s program bill was first introduced in June in the wake of disturbing reports on the rise of prescription drug abuse across New York and throughout the nation.  During the past 10 years, the U.S. population grew by about 13 percent while prescriptions for addictive pharmaceuticals increased by 153 percent. Most distressing is that the deaths from prescription opioids are exceeding deaths from heroin and cocaine overdoses combined.

“The epidemic of prescription drug abuse is infecting our communities and wreaking havoc on families in every corner of this state,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Across New York and in the Capital Region, hydrocodone and oxycodone prescriptions are on the rise and correspondingly, treatment facilities are reporting significantly higher rates of prescription drug abuse.  We have an opportunity to address this issue head on. I-STOP tracks abusers early and will provide the medical community with the information it needs to treat patients, help addicts and fight trafficking.”

Schneiderman’s proposed improvement of New York’s prescription drug monitoring program would establish an online, real-time database requiring physicians and pharmacists to report information when certain controlled substances are prescribed or dispensed. Doctors 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 doctor to the I-STOP database.  The measure would help prevent practices like ‘doc-shopping,’ where individuals visit different doctors to accumulate more prescription drugs.

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 a significant increase in opiate use in the Capital Region. For example:

  • Crisis admissions to drug treatment involving certain opiates nearly doubled between 2007 and 2010, increasing from 87 admissions in 2007 to 169 in 2010.  These controlled substances include non-Rx methadone, oxycodone, buprenorphine, and other synthetic opiates such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, and codeine, among others.
  • Non-crisis admissions to drug treatment involving these opiates as the primary drug of abuse rose from 109 in 2007 to 180 in 2010, an increase of 65 percent.
  • From 2008 to 2010, hydrocodone was the most commonly prescribed controlled prescription drug (CPD), followed by zolpidem (Ambien®), then alprazolam (Xanax®).  The number of hydrocodone prescriptions filled grew by seven percent from 2008 to 2010, those for alprazolam grew 24 percent, and those for oxycodone grew 50 percent. Oxycodone is now the fourth most commonly prescribed CPD in Albany County.

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. The I-STOP database would require reports before the prescription and dispensing of a Schedule II, III, IV, or V controlled drug. Such controlled substances include: oxycodone and morphine (Schedule II); vicodin (Schedule III); Xanax and Klonopin (Schedule IV); and pyrovalerone (Schedule V). The New York State Department of Health will be responsible for maintaining the database.

I-STOP would also require doctors, 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.

I-STOP Report.