A new state law designed to curb the prescription-drug addiction that kills one American every 19 minutes is a pioneering model for the whole 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 drugs.
"I truly believe that this is the most important legislation that we have seen passed in decades," state Sen. Andrew J. 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. 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 drugs like Oxycontin and other increasingly popular painkillers.
"I-STOP will save lives," said Schneiderman, who was joined by 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, where they said there are more pharmacy robberies than bank holdups.
A string of Staten Island drugstore robberies in the past year prompted one to post a sign that reads "We do not stock Oxycodone or Roxicodone."
Across the United States, armed robberies at pharmacies rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The number of pills stolen went from 706,000 to 1.3 million.
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 disposal sites where people can safely 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 someone did not get a prescription filled in another state before doing it again in New York.
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. He then started talking to health-care experts to see how "doctor shopping" for more unneeded prescriptions could be stopped.
Just about everyone knows someone who has had a pain-pill dependency problem, Schneiderman said.
"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."
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