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New I-STOP Law Tackles Prescription Drug Abuse

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of incidents involving the abuse and misuse of highly addictive painkillers in New York State.

This dangerous and growing epidemic, which has negatively affected the lives of far too many Queens families, led to the passage of the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (I-STOP) in 2012 (Ch. 447 of 2012). In addition to creating the first real-time prescription drug database in the country, the law strengthens regulations of several controlled substances to help curb improper usage.

One of the law’s most significant provisions, a measure that updates the classification and prescription schedules of two controlled substances- hydrocodone and tramadol- took effect on Saturday, Feb. 23. This provision will require drugs containing hydrocodone (commonly referred to as Vicodin) to be moved from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug, a shift that limits an initial prescription for the painkiller to 30 days and also eliminates the current automatic refill status for first-time patients.

The law also adds the prescription drug tramadol (also known as Ultram, Ultracet and Ryzolt) to Schedule

IV on the controlled substances list. Prior to this provision, it was often very easy for a person to get the same prescription from multiple doctors filled at separate pharmacies. Placing limits on refills and prescriptions for both hydrocodone and tramadol is a key step in preventing the abuse of these two highly addictive drugs.

Taking action to prevent the abuse of prescription drugs is a necessity in order to increase the safety and wellbeing of Queens families. According to data from the Upstate New York Poison Control Center, the statewide incidences of hydrocodone abuse have drastically increased: 363 reports of abuse in 2008 and 703 in 2012.

Overall, in 2011, the center reported over 12,800 cases of prescription drug abuse. Additionally, both medical and non-medical sales of painkillers like hydrocodone and Tramadol quadrupled between 1999 and 2010.

Many provisions of I-STOP went into effect following the law’s passage last year. The state Department of Health (DOH) quickly implemented the Safe Disposal program. This program provides a safe, nonthreatening location for New Yorkers to dispose of expired and unneeded prescription drugs to ensure that they are not left in medicine cabinets or in other easily accessible places.

The law’s most revolutionary provision- the nation’s first-ever realtime prescription drug database-will begin implementation statewide in August. This database will be established and maintained by the DOH and will provide real-time information for practitioners to review when researching a patient’s prescription history. This database gives doctors and pharmacists the ability to stop a potential prescription drug abuse problem before it starts, ensuring the health and safety of so many families.

Additionally, I-STOP’s electronic prescribing initiative will take effect in 2015 to allow pharmacists to issue prescriptions for controlled and noncontrolled substances.

We can no longer shy away from the plain and simple truth: Prescription drug abuse is a dangerous, growing problem in our state. I-STOP takes proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of Queens families and all New Yorkers by making sure highly addictive prescription drugs are kept out of the hands of potential abusers.

Editor’s note: Miller represents the 38th Assembly District, which includes portions of Ridgewood, Glendale, Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Richmond Hill.

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