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Reps. Grimm, Higgins Lead Push to Fight Prescription Drug Abuse in New York

Congressional leaders urge NYS legislators to pass AG Eric Schneiderman's Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP) Act

Today, U.S. Representatives Michael G. Grimm (R-S.I./Brooklyn) and Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) led New York’s Congressional delegation in sending a letter of support for New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s proposed legislation, the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (I-STOP).  This state-led initiative would establish a program connecting doctors and pharmacists to a real-time, online database to track the prescribing and dispensing of frequently abused drugs.  Prescription drug monitoring programs currently operate in 43 states, and I-STOP will help New York join the ranks with a modernized approach to combating prescription drug abuse. Twenty-four members of New York’s Congressional delegation signed the letter.

“Prescription drug abuse in New York State is becoming a growing epidemic, with alarming rates in Staten Island and Brooklyn, particularly among our youth,” said Rep. Grimm. “I have been a leader on this issue at the federal level and fully support this effort to combat ‘pharmacy shopping’ at the state level. Too many lives have been taken by this problem and I encourage New York’s legislators to adopt I-STOP without delay.” 

“New York has long proven itself to be a leader in medical technologies,” said Rep. Higgins. “The I-STOP program is just what we need to modernize our approach to tackling prescription drug abuse and give doctors and pharmacists the best available tools for reducing this alarming trend.” 

I-STOP takes the following steps to combat prescription drug abuse in New York: 1) requires the Department of Health to establish and maintain an online, real-time controlled substance reporting system to track the prescription and dispensing of controlled substances; 2) requires practitioners to review a patient's controlled substance prescription history on the system prior to prescribing; 3) requires practitioners or their agents to report a prescription for such controlled substances to the system at the time of issuance; 4) requires pharmacists to review the system to confirm the person presenting such a prescription possesses a legitimate prescription prior to dispensing such substance; and 5) requires pharmacists or their agents to report dispensation of such prescriptions. 

For a full list of supporters and more information visit the Office of the New York State Attorney General's website. Rep. Grimm has led this effort at the federal level by sponsoring the Fraudulent Prescription Prevention Act (H.R. 1266), which he introduced with the support of Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan.  In the fall Rep. Higgins joined Western New York residents Avi and Julie Israel, the parents of Michael David Israel, and other local advocates to bring attention to the urgent need to fight against prescription drug abuse.  

The attached letter has been signed by Representatives Michael Grimm, Brian Higgins, Gary Ackerman, Timothy Bishop, Yvette Clarke, Joseph Crowley, Eliot Engel, Richard Hanna, Maurice Hinchey, Kathy Hochul, Steve Israel, Peter King, Nita Lowey, Carolyn Maloney, Carolyn McCarthy, Gregory Meeks, Jerrold Nadler, Charles Rangel, Jose Serrano, Louise Slaughter, Paul Tonko, Edolphus Towns, Bob Turner, Nydia Velazquez. 

The text of the letter is below:
January 30, 2012
New York State Assembly                               New York State Senate
Albany, New York 12248                                 Albany, New York 12247
Members of the New York State Legislature,
We are writing to bring your attention to a dangerous and growing crisis affecting families in every corner of this state.  In urban, suburban, rural, upstate and downstate New York, prescription drug abuse is an epidemic that is reshaping our definition of addiction, and one that demands the attention of our communities, law enforcement officials, and legislators. 
Between 2007 and 2010, the rates of admission to treatment programs for prescription drug abuse increased by 45 percent. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drug abuse is the country’s second most prevalent illegal drug problem, and recent reports and studies have documented corresponding data trends in New York State.  For example:
•          Oxycodone prescriptions increased by 66 percent in New York City from 2007 to 2009;
•          In Buffalo, New York’s largest methadone clinic outside of New York City is reorganizing its service to accommodate an increase in care needed to treat the growing number of addicted mothers and their newborns;
•          On Long Island, both crisis and non-crisis admissions to drug treatment that involve opiates other than heroin and cocaine have increased at alarming rates. And between 2004 and 2009, the number of deaths due to the toxic effects of prescription opioids more than tripled in Nassau County.
Given the magnitude of the problem, we urge you to support Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s proposed state legislation called the "Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act," or "I-STOP."  The legislation would establish a program connecting doctors and pharmacists to a real time, online database to track the prescription and dispensing of frequently abused drugs.  Prescription drug monitoring programs currently operate in 43 states, and it is time for New York to modernize its approach to addressing this metastasizing crisis for our families. 
In addition to providing health care providers and pharmacists with centralized information to avoid overprescribing, I-STOP will result in preventing drug trafficking as well as identifying and treat patients who seek to abuse prescription drugs.  This much-needed enhancement of the state’s prescription drug monitoring program will assist in patient care, and also help crack down on ‘doctor shopping,’ the practice of frequenting several different doctors and pharmacies for prescription drugs. With real-time information, physicians and pharmacists will have the necessary tools to track potential abuses, and stop those who enable and profit off of the illegitimate use of prescribed drugs.
I-STOP would also require practitioners, pharmacists and law enforcement officials to complete continuing education programs on the proper uses of the substance reporting system. The proposed legislation prohibits the disclosure of all the data collected in the online database, unless authorized by law. 
The Attorney General’s I-STOP legislation is the solution New York State needs to begin tackling the prescription drug epidemic head on. On behalf of families across the state, we urge you to pass this legislation before another life is lost.