Weisenberg Backs Bills To Fight Prescription Drug Abuse

October 28, 2011
“The explosion in the abuse of prescription medication requires that we use every tool we have to attack this insidious problem,” said Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg. “I am co-sponsoring several bills aimed at making it much more difficult for drug abusers and drug dealers to illegally obtain these potentially deadly controlled substances. We need only remember the horrific drug store shooting in Medford to understand the devastating toll this problem is exacting on families and communities.”

Recent reports state that the number of emergency room visits resulting from prescription drug abuse has nearly doubled over the past five years. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that there were approximately 1.2 million visits to emergency rooms involving pharmaceutical drugs in 2009, compared with 627,000 in 2004.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has found that more than 7 million Americans admit to abusing prescription drugs. Further, the DEA has concluded that prescriptions drugs have surpassed marijuana as the number one gateway drug for first-time drug abusers in the United States.

“Locally, drug abuse has become frighteningly pervasive,” said Assemblyman Weisenberg. “My office and I often try to help local families find treatment programs. But that’s not always so easy – programs are costly, and the right program may be in another state, and if the person in need of help is an adult, it is their choice to enter treatment, or not. Families are desperate.”

The proposed legislation would strengthen the state’s insufficient prescription drug monitoring program, give pharmacists (in addition to medical practitioners) access to data from the program, and require medical professionals and pharmacists to report and track prescriptions of controlled substances, Weisenberg said.

Giving pharmacists access to the prescription drug monitoring program data would help pharmacists determine a prescription’s authenticity – whether it had been filled by another pharmacy or physician, and whether the patient had been doctor “shopping.”

Additionally, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) currently notifies practitioners when a patient obtains controlled substances from multiple practitioners within a 30-day period – a situation that could indicate potential harm to the patient, or possible drug abuse or criminal diversion of drugs. Another of the bills will authorize DOH to also notify pharmacies when customers have already obtained controlled substances from other pharmacies in 30 days.

“A person who is trying to obtain drugs for illegal purposes may seek out a pharmacist who is unfamiliar with them, use a prescription from a practitioner who is not from the same local area as the pharmacist, or attempt to fill a prescription for someone else. Having access to the patient’s recent controlled substance history would give pharmacists important information about determining the legitimacy of the prescription,” said the Assemblyman.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has proposed the “Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing” (I-STOP) Act. I-STOP will create an on-line, real-time controlled substance reporting system that requires practitioners and pharmacists to search for and report certain data at the time a schedule II, III, IV, or V controlled substance is prescribed and at the time such substance is dispensed.

“Linking these professionals will improve reporting of controlled substance information by doctors and pharmacists and help all those involved in the legal dispensing of medication cut off the supply of these drugs to those who abuse them or sell them illegally,” said Assemblyman Weisenberg. “This legislation will enable those on the front line to better identify patterns of abuse, help curtail the illicit sale of controlled substances, and more quickly get assistance to people struggling with addiction.”