A new state law designed to curb the prescription drug addiction that kills one American every 19 minutes is a model for the country, New York officials said Monday.
Under I-STOP — the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing — a real-time, central database of prescriptions will show pharmacists if a person has been “doctor shopping” for extra narcotics.
“I truly believe that this is the most important legislation that we have seen passed in decades,” state Sen. Andrew Lanza said. “And that’s because this problem, this scourge, this epidemic, is so severe that it’s ripped apart families across the nation.”
The I-STOP plan was recently passed by both houses of the New York Legislature and is awaiting the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo before it goes into action next year, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
Doctors and pharmacists will be required to monitor a patient’s prescription history before supplying increasingly popular painkillers containing oxycodone, the key ingredient in OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan.
“I-STOP will save lives,” said Schneiderman.
He held a news conference with two legislators who pushed the bill through the state Senate and Assembly — Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island, and Democratic Assemblyman Michael Cusick, also from that borough.
They joined Schneiderman at a community clinic on Staten Island, which is New York’s oxycodone distribution capital and has reported more pharmacy robberies than bank holdups.
Sales of oxycodone in the New York borough that’s a ferry ride from Manhattan rose by 1,200 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to federal Drug Enforcement Administration figures.
In March, prosecutors broke up a Staten Island drug ring that used an ice cream truck to peddle black-market prescription painkillers.
Across the United States, armed robberies at pharmacies rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686, according to the DEA.
Schneiderman said he’s in touch with other attorneys general who could copy New York’s efforts to stop prescription drug abuse, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kills one person every 19 minutes nationwide.
According to Schneiderman, fatalities on Staten Island linked to accidental overdoses of prescription drugs increased by 147 percent from 3 per 100,000 in 2005 to 7.4 per 100,000 in 2009 — more than double the rate of any other New York borough.
Under the state measure, police will set up sites where people can discard unused drugs instead of keeping them in medicine cabinets where other family members — especially children — might find them.
But there’s a loophole in the plan.
Schneiderman acknowledged that because the legislation now covers only New York, there’s no way to be sure prescriptions were not filled in another state.
That’s why it’s paramount that other states consider emulating New York, Schneiderman said, adding that the best solution would be a federal database.
He said he started working on the bill last year after a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, where he heard that prescription-painkiller addiction was skyrocketing.
When it comes to pain-pill dependency, “it’s not just one age group, one class or ethnic group,” the attorney general said. “There are so many families who have lost loved ones, and this should make New York a national model.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.