New York leads the way with policies that benefit people’s health – such as the public smoking bans enacted over a decade ago and the recent proposals to ban sodas larger than 16 ounces to curb obesity. The state is now shaping policies on prescriptions. New York is one of the few states that doesn’t allow the transfer of prescriptions, especially controlled substances, across state lines. Recently it has gone a step further by creating a policy to help curb the pandemic of prescription pill abuse through its I-STOP (Internet System for Tracking Over Prescribing) Plan.
The central tracking system will allow pharmacies to oversee all of it’s customer’s prescriptions from all pharmacies within the state in order to prevent prescription drug abuse. This monitoring mechanism will make it difficult for those who engage in “doctor shopping” to get multiple scripts for one medication that they either abuse or sell for others to abuse. The concept of doctor shopping is a popular phenomenon in states like Florida, where one patient can see multiple pain management doctors and get upwards of a thousand of prescription pain pills in a month.
According to the Center for Disease Control, prescription pill abuse kills one person in the US every 19 minutes, which illustrates the need for such tracking systems – especially in New York where the sale of prescription pills like oxycodone have increased ten fold between 2000 and 2010. The I-STOP Plan has already been passed by the New York State Legislature and is just awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature before going into effect in 2013.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman praised the I-STOP Plan asserting that it will “save lives.” Whether those saved lives will be just in New York or across the US writ-large depends on if other states follow suit. While other states have enacted laws to curb doctor shopping, the tracking systems either aren’t as comprehensive or have limited mechanisms for enforcement. Schneiderman warns that addicts may continue to get their prescriptions filled in other states and says, “That’s why it’s paramount that other states consider emulating New York.” While a state or even federal tracking system will help curb some prescription pill abuse, it will be most effective in tandem with drug treatment options. If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription pill abuse, there is hope and help.