New York lawmakers unanimously approved legislation Monday that will require doctors to issue drug prescriptions electronically within three years, meanwhile establishing tighter restrictions on painkillers and other addictive drugs on the state list of controlled substances.
The legislation, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo promises to sign, will require the health department to publish regulations by Dec. 31 for electronic prescriptions for drugs on the long list that include narcotics, steroids and opioid analgesics like hydrocone. Doctors would have to transmit those electronically to pharmacists within two years after that.
It will require pharmacists to report filling painkiller prescriptions “in real time,” including the patient and prescriber names, and require doctors to check patient records before writing new ones. Health officials will review the registry and look for problems or troubling trends. Pharmacists will be able to check it also to check the patient’s overall drug record.
“It’s an absolute necessity,” said Sen. Kemp Hannon, a Long Island Republican and Health Committee chairman. He noted the sharp increases in painkiller prescriptions statewide, with more than 22 million written in one year in a state with less than 20 million people, as well as addictions and related deaths.
The goal is to gather information about prescriptions and who’s getting them as soon as possible to help curb overprescribing and overuse, while doctors already are moving toward writing prescriptions electronically, according to bill sponsors. The move away from paper prescriptions also is intended to ensure they won’t be misinterpreted, leading to drug errors, or altered, leading to black market diversions.
The bill follows last week’s agreement on final legislation among top lawmakers, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who proposed the online monitoring program more than a year ago, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The health department currently collects pharmacy prescription information every 30 to 45 days for the state registry, which pharmacists currently can’t check.
“The intent is to stop the practice of doctor shopping,” said Assemblyman Michael Cusick, a Staten Island Democrat and bill sponsor. “Which is one of the main causes of this epidemic.”
Families of addicts and overdose victims lobbied for the bill and cheered its passage in both chambers Monday.
Some doctors lobbied against provisions they described as time-consuming and burdensome. The measure allows them to designate staff to check the registry before prescriptions are written and exempts them from checking the registry in certain circumstances, including where drugs are dispensed and used in institutions, in emergency rooms where supplies don’t exceed five days, or in hospice care.
“We are creating a national model for smart, coordinated communication between health care providers and pharmacists to better serve patients, stop prescription drug trafficking, and provide treatment to those who need help,” Schneiderman said.
The measure also would let health officials disclose drug registry information with the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and with medical examiners. It would reclassify some drugs, including hydrocodone mixes, for tighter restrictions including no refills.
“Too many families have had to cope with the devastating loss of a teenager as a result of a prescription drug overdose, and the legislation passed today will enable our state to better crack down on the illegal trafficking of painkillers and help prevent more untimely fatalities,” Cuomo said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.