ALBANY — State officials are working on ways to curb the black market and excessive use of hydrocodone and other addictive painkillers, including more aggressive monitoring of prescriptions and stricter penalties to prevent abuse.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, has been pushing immediate online review and reporting by doctors and pharmacists of each prescription written and filled for a patient. That would prevent doctor shopping by addicts and dealers who resell drugs.
Nationwide, pharmacies received and ultimately dispensed the equivalent of 69 tons of pure oxycodone and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone in 2010, a dramatic rise over the previous decade, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data.
New York's Republican-controlled Senate recently passed bills to reclassify hydrocodone, sold as Vicodin, Norco and Lortab, to the same restricted group as oxycodone. That would require a new prescription each time, with no refills. Another bill passed by the Senate would increase criminal penalties for physicians and pharmacists who illegally divert prescription drugs.
Spokesmen for Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Schneiderman and legislative leaders confirmed ongoing talks aimed at passing legislation this year. "We want to get it done," Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said Monday.
Lawmakers are scheduled to return April 17 for a 2012 session expected to last two more months.
In January, Schneiderman's office issued a report on an epidemic in Americans' abuse of painkillers and introduced legislation to establish what he called the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing, or I-STOP. That would require the state Department of Health to establish a computer reporting system where doctors and other care providers would have to review a patient's complete prescription drug history online before writing new scrips for painkillers. Pharmacists would have to check the same system to confirm all such prescriptions are legitimate before filling them.
New York regulations now require practitioners, including dentists, to report prescriptions they write monthly to the health department, which is considering a shorter reporting period.