Gunther: Assembly Passes I-STOP Legislation to Crack Down on Prescription Drug Abuse

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D,C – Forestburgh) announced the Assembly passed legislation she sponsored that creates the first real-time prescription-drug database in the country to crack down on prescription-drug abuse and strengthens regulations of certain controlled substances to curb improper use (A.10623). The legislation, known as “I-STOP,” will overhaul the way prescription drugs are administered and tracked in New York State, and it has the support of the governor, the attorney general and the Senate.

“Prescription-drug abuse is an increasingly serious problem that can have devastating effects,” Gunther said, adding that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 15,000 people die each year from overdoses of prescription drug pain killers. “It’s often very easy for a person to get the same prescription from two different doctors filled at separate pharmacies, without the doctors or pharmacists knowing. This legislation would prevent that from happening and keep dangerous doses of drugs out of the hands of abusers.”

Creating a prescription-drug database

Specifically, the legislation would require the Department of Health (DOH) to establish and maintain a real-time controlled substance database. Currently, practitioners are not required to check the current prescription-drug monitoring program prior to prescribing controlled substances, nor is the current monitoring program updated in real time, making much of its information outdated.

Additionally, this bill would require doctors to review a patient’s controlled substance prescription history on the database prior to prescribing certain controlled substances. It would also grant patients access to personal prescription histories and the ability to dispute inaccurate information if necessary, and task the DOH with tracking who has access to the registry to ensure its confidentiality and privacy.

The legislation requires practitioners to issue electronic-only prescriptions beginning Dec. 31, 2014, with waivers and case-specific exemptions possible under certain circumstances.

“Creating a real-time database for prescription-drug monitoring is a matter of safety,” Gunther said. “It would allow doctors and pharmacists to curb what has the potential to be a very serious problem before it starts. It’s a measure that keeps the health and safety of our families a top priority.”

Further regulating controlled substances

In an attempt to further address the epidemic of improper use of prescription medications, the legislation moves Hyrodcodone from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug to affect the time before a prescription refill can be issued, limiting an initial prescription for this drug to 30 days and not the current 5-refill allotment for first-time patients. The bill would also add the prescription drug Tramadol to Schedule IV on the controlled substance list. Additionally, the DOH will be required to establish a program for the safe disposal of unused controlled substances on a voluntary basis.

The legislation would also require the Prescription Pain Medication Awareness Program workgroup established in the 2012-13 state budget to make recommendations to the Commissioner of Health regarding continuing education requirements for practitioners and pharmacists relating to prescription pain medication awareness and palliative care.