A provision of recently enacted state legislation designed to tackle the abuse of highly addictive painkillers by monitoring and limiting prescriptions took effect on Feb. 23.
The I-STOP law, backed by Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), now requires drugs containing hydrocodone, such as Vicodin, to be limited to a 30-day prescription while eliminating automatic refills for first-time patients.
The provision also requires the increased monitoring by doctors of the distribution of tramadol, a drug common in most prescription pain relievers.
“Taking action to prevent the abuse of prescription drugs is a necessity in order to increase the safety and well-being of Queens families,” Miller said in a press release. “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.”
The I-STOP law, short for the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing, was introduced to the state Legislature by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last year.
The legislation combats over-prescribing by requiring the state Department of Health to establish and maintain an online controlled substance reporting system to track the prescription and dispensing of painkillers. It requires practitioners and pharmacists to review a patient’s controlled substance prescription history on the system prior to prescribing.
“It took a while for it to start but the 23rd was the magic day,” Miller said Tuesday via email. “This is just one tool in our attempt to keep people safe.”
Implementation of the drug database will go into effect this August. And the I-STOP law will mandate pharmacists to issue prescriptions for controlled and non-controlled substances electronically, beginning in 2015. The 30-day prescription rule took effect last week.
“Queens is not immune to the critical problems associated with people who abuse drugs — whether illegal or overprescribed,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said via email. “The I-STOP legislation is a significant step in addressing the problems of overprescribing.”
Gerard Ruiz, director of the Creedmoor Addiction Treatment Center in Queens Village, believes the new provision will help those in the medical field limit the abuse of prescription drugs.
“ Any legislation preventing the misuse of any harmful drug is a good thing,” he said. “About a fourth of our patients have issues with painkillers.”
A former painkiller addict attending St. John’s University, who asked to remain anonymous, supports the I-STOP legislation and its most recent provision. He said that it was the “right thing to do.”
“It’s a step in the right direction because trying to get off of painkillers by yourself is very difficult,” he said. “I needed it more and more every day but I was lucky enough to go to a doctor and have the willpower to fight through it.”
According to a study released in 2011 by the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, there was a 40 percent increase in the amount of abuse of prescription pain-reliever medication by New Yorkers over the age of 12 from 2002 to 2009. The same study also showed that in 2009, Queens doctors issued hydrocodone and oxycodone, both prescription pain-relieving medications, almost 400,000 times.
One of I-STOP’s ongoing initiatives is the Safe Disposal Program, a campaign designed to provide a location for New Yorkers to dispose of expired and unneeded prescription drugs to ensure they are not left for others.