Schneiderman: Rx drug abuse is fueled by easy access to unused drugs; New Yorkers should dispose of unused drugs
On Saturday, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman marked the sixth annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day by visiting take-back sites at the Crossgates Mall in Albany, and the Yonkers Police Department - 2nd Precinct in Yonkers, and urging New Yorkers to disposed of unused drugs at these sites, and at drop boxes that are now available across the state year-round. Schneiderman was joined in Albany by Mayor Gerald R. Jennings, and in Yonkers by Mayor Mike Spano.
Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in America. Seventy percent of youth get their prescription drugs from family and friends. More than 2 million pounds of prescription medications were removed from circulation at take-back days over the past five years.
To combat the prescription drug epidemic, Schneiderman led the effort to enact the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP, a comprehensive law to fight prescription drug abuse. I-STOP expanded on the model of the take-back day to make medication drop boxes available year round in New York, starting last August, for the safe and legal disposal of unused prescription drugs.
"One of the keys to stemming the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse is cutting off easy access to unused drugs in home medicine cabinets," Schneiderman said. "That's why New York's groundbreaking I-STOP law expanded on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day to make medication drop boxes available year-round all across the state. I encourage all New Yorkers to dispose of unneeded drugs at a local site today, and to visit the Department of Health website to locate a year-round drop box."
Take-back days are organized by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in conjunction with state and local officials to provide a safe, convenient, and legal way to dispose of unused prescription drugs so that they are not susceptible to diversion or abuse. Year-round drop boxes can be located on the state Department of Health website.
The I-STOP law was first introduced by Schneiderman in 2011 and passed unanimously by the Legislature in 2012. Among the features of this legislation:
I-STOP makes New York the first state in the nation to mandate that physicians consult a database of a patient's prescription history before prescribing a schedule II, III or IV controlled substance. Substances are placed in their respective schedules based on whether they have a currently accepted medical in the U.S., their relative abuse potential, and likelihood of causing dependence when abused. For example, oxycodone, a frequently abused prescription painkiller, is schedule II. Accurate patient histories and better training will help physicians detect doctor shoppers and better serve patients at risk of addiction. Doctors can also use this information to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.
I-STOP makes New York the largest (and only second) state in the nation to require real-time reporting by pharmacists when schedule II, III, IV or V prescriptions are filled.
I-STOP makes New York one of the first states to schedule the universal mandate of e-prescribing for controlled substances in December of 2014. This should nearly eliminate the problem of forged or stolen prescriptions—used both by addicts, and criminal organizations obtaining pills to resell on the street.
I-STOP rescheduled hydrocodone to schedule II, ending automatic refills for this highly abused drug.
I-STOP scheduled tramadol, a "drug of concern" to schedule IV (it was previously unscheduled).
I-STOP also deters fraud against private health insurers and the state government. Taxpayers have been paying for a substantial portion of the over-prescribed pills through the Medicaid program. Each ring of collusive patients and prescribers prosecuted by the attorney general's medicaid fraud control unit represented a loss to the state of at least $1 million.
In the run-up to I-STOPs passage, the attorney general released a report detailing the scope of the prescription drug epidemic in New York and demonstrating the need for action by the Legislature. According to the AG's report:
Statewide prescriptions for hydrocodone have increased 16.7 percent, while those for oxycodone have increased an astonishing 82 percent between 2007 and 2009;
In Buffalo, New York's largest methadone clinic outside of New York City, Catholic Health System, has begun to reorganize its service to accommodate an increase in care needed to treat the number of opiate-addicted expectant mothers and newborns;
In Western New York, nine "prescriptions drop-offs," whereby households can dispose of unwanted and unnecessary drugs, were held over two years between October 2008 and November 2010. In total, these drop-offs yielded 652 poundsof controlled substances, comprised of 124,050 doses of narcotics, including 48,883 doses of hydrocodone, 16,393 doses of oxycodone, and 2,287 doses of fentanyl.
I-STOP vastly enhances the effectiveness of New York's prescription tracking system. Its goal is to enable doctors and pharmacists to provide prescription pain medications, and other controlled substances, to patients who truly need them. At the same time, it arms them with the necessary data to detect potentially dangerous drug interactions, identify patterns of abuse by patients, doctors and pharmacists, help those who suffer from crippling addictions, and prevent potential addiction before it starts.
Schneiderman thanked the U.S. Department of Justice DEA and the New York State Department of Health for organizing National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events across New York state.