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New York Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Sparks Debate


A proposal to implement a prescription drug monitoring program in New York State has sparked a debate between legislators and two health care professional associations, Forbes reports.

The Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing (I-STOP) bill, proposed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last year, would require doctors to search patients’ medical histories for patterns of drug abuse before they write a new prescription for controlled substances. Pharmacists would have to check the database before dispensing painkillers, the article notes.

Doctors and pharmacists would enter information into the database every time a prescription for a controlled substance is issued or dispensed. Under current law, pharmacists must file a report twice a month. Doctors in New York are not required to report prescriptions.

The bill is endorsed by a bipartisan coalition of law enforcement and medical professionals and state and local legislators. However, the Medical Society of the State of New York, which represents 30,000 doctors, opposes the bill.

“We all agree that medications are being abused and diverted. What we’re concerned about is that if there are too many mandates or if they are too strict, it would create such a burden on physicians practices that some physicians would choose to stop prescribing,” Frank Dowling, MD, Commissioner of Public Health and Science for the Medical Society, told Forbes. He urged that the state’s current voluntary prescription drug monitoring program be improved. It is time-consuming to use, and is not updated regularly, the article states. The database is not available to pharmacists, and many doctors are not aware of it.

The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York also opposes I-STOP. Craig Burridge, Executive Director of the group, told Forbes, “The problem [with the current system] is that pharmacists don’t have access to the database. I-STOP would do that, but we don’t want it mandated. It’s not necessary for pharmacists to do the same thing that prescribers already do. It really gums up the flow at pharmacies, which are already understaffed and overburdened.”

17 Responses to this article

  1. Jason J (RN) / June 19, 2014 at 11:16 am

    I too am opposed to the new system of restrictions. I understand that there is a problem out there that needs to be dealt with, but i feel as though everyone is being treated as guilty. What happened to being ‘innocent until proven guilty’? My wife has three herniated disks and has a surgery scheduled, which required us jumping through many hoops to even be able to get a referral to a surgeon. Her primary care physician offered her a 10day prescription of tylenol3 just over two months ago and she too had to was made to feel like a criminal by being made to sign off on pill counts and drug tests. Now keep in mind tylenol with codeine is something they give children as a cough suppressant but my 26 y/o wife is interrogated and given the run around every time she calls to get new prescription written. It seems to help her enough so that she can function and she is just trying to get by (continue working, and take care of her children) until her surgery…why is all of this extra stress necessary for the honest people out there just looking to legally control their pain…to New York State, i would like to say that although your intentions of controlling substance abuse is noble that by making criminals out of innocent people and making it more difficult for honest people to get what they need i believe you are making more problems then you are resolving. I believe that people will find what they need whether the doctor prescribes it for them as it should be or if they have to find it by other means(buying pills on the street). Criminalize those people that have abused the system, not those that are innocent.

  2. Avatar of Martha
    Martha / February 6, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    I have 2 different perspectives on this law and neither is in favor of it. I have had ADHD since I was a child and take a stimulant daily to help manage it, for a total of about 15 years. In the last 2 years or so, I’ve been questioned by pharmacists, very accusingly, about filling the rx 2-3 early; I’ve been mandated to sign a contract, submit to urine testing and pill counts by my MD. It’s demeaning and makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong when I’m not doing anything different than I have been for the last 15 years.
    My other perspective as from a health care providers point of view. I am a home health RN who deals with patient prescriptions daily. Many doctors in NY have literally stopped prescribing narcotic pain meds. For example, I have a patient who was prescribed 90 Percocet tabs in October 2012 for occasional flareups of arthritis pain. The patient did not use them often but when they were used, they were very effective. In November 2013, I contacted the MD and requested a refill for the patient as they were gone (over a year later) and the MD refused. The patient talked about the pain at their next appt and MD prescribed Tramadol. The patient tried it but it was not effective. When I reported this to the MD, he stated “Well there’s nothing more I can do”. What happened to treating patient’s pain? We are taught, as healthcare professionals, that a patients pain is what they say it is and should be treated as such. So when MDs stop prescribing meds that help patients have 2 options… Suffer or go find something that helps (ie heroine). It just doesn’t make sense.

  3. Avatar of Travis H.
    Travis H. / January 30, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I am 30 yrsld and have been suffering from major spinal ailments since my late teens.Pain management now about 5 years. Ever since my very first controlled substance pain med I’ve gotten legally, from a legally licensesed Dr. Which came from a legally licensed pharmacy which came from a legally licensed pharma co. Which came from a legally licensed poppy field.

  4. Jeff / November 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    …. and by the way, is there any organizations out there that have been formed to overturn these laws?

  5. Avatar of Jeff
    Jeff / November 4, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    I’m in with the majority of you as I can’t stand the new laws either!!
    I find them intrusive and a great hindrance to my quality of life.
    I’ve been on a plethora of narcotics and other medications since I developed a lesion in my spinal cord from “neuro-sarcoidosis”. I have had numerous issues from moderate to severe neuropathy and flare ups that cause tremendous pain. In all the “playing” and “tweaking” with medications, the only things that work are methadone for long term and oxycodone for short term.
    Now due to the new laws, I have to spend money to go once a month to my doctors office and pay the co-pay! The office is 3 hours away!
    I’m so sick of the government “fixing” things that harm the individuals who haven’t done anything wrong!
    I’ve tried all sorts of “alternative” pain therapies, medications and other things. Nothing works as well.
    It’s all politics. I’m tired of being at the end of the rope that some politician is using to climb higher in the “food chain”!
    Oh well, there’s not much I can do about it except vote them out!!
    Nuff Said!!

  6. Avatar of DEBORAH OLSEN
    DEBORAH OLSEN / November 2, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    I think politicians should make pain pills illegal for the pharmaceutical companies to make. Well, why don’t we make all drugs illegal for the pharmaceutical companies to make or process. This way everyone can lose their jobs, the narcotic squad, pharmacist, the pharmacist tech, cashiers at the pharmacy, doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, police officers, New York Attorney General, and hey even politicians. New York state can then lower taxes since no one will have a job anyway to pay taxes. REALLY, IS IT POSSIBLE FOR ANYONE ELSE AT THE POLITICAL LEVEL TO GET IN THE FACES OF LAW ABIDING CITIZENS THAT REALLY NEED THEIR DOCTORS AND PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS. REALLY IS THERE?

  7. Avatar of Susan Eliott
    Susan Eliott / October 24, 2013 at 2:16 am

    I have been taking Ativan for anxiety (secondary to grief after being widowed) for two years. After fracturing my back I was given a low dosage of Valium because the Ativan doesn’t seem to touch my back spasms and I injured myself once during a back spasm. I brought both prescriptions to the pharmacy a couple of months ago and they told me they would fill them but I shouldn’t be on both. Valium does nothing for my anxiety and Ativan does nothing for my back spasms. Right now, neither doctor will prescribe unless I pick one. How do I pick one? I’m on Ativan PRN and 5 mg of Valium PRN (I was on 10 but he brought me down to 5 when I wasn’t getting them every day). I never take both in one day and many days don’t take either. I’m not addicted but have to choose one. I’m in NY. How do I do that?

  8. Avatar of linnet
    linnet / October 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I am unable to find an answer to this related question anywhere … I have been on prescribed pain medication for several years for head and neck pain, never abusing the increasingly restrictive rules, but after taking a urine test at my doctor’s, I was billed $271. I have no intention of paying for a test that showed I was using only my prescribed medicines, but cannot find out the legal status of these tests, and thus don’t know on what grounds to make my stand. I have no health insurance and live in NY.

  9. Avatar of joe
    joe / September 4, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Get and keep these guys out of our personal life!
    It is no one’s business what prescriptions I have except my doctor.
    Next thing the cops will be able to search at a roadside traffic stop!
    This has to end. They are out of control.
    Hitler would have liked this system…..

  10. Avatar of D
    D / August 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    It will also cripple the relationships between pharmacies, inexperienced pharmacists and doctors. This is NOT the way to go about abusing innocent people suffering from pain. Example, taking atypical medications usually most wouldn’t for a specific disorder. That inexperienced pharmacist or experienced might have an issue with these medications, even though no interaction exists. Get rid of drug abusers, however remember friends..not all of those who are dependant on drugs are criminals, OR BAD people. Make them suffer? How? Making them pay for suboxone, LOL. What a joke, a mockery and worst most disgusting thing you could have done to people. Than again, those doctors who prescribe suboxone make a SH)__LOa unfortunately. Tell me, do they know how to taper those off of them getting a bit ANGRY and off topic!!!!

  11. Avatar of Virginia Hetcher
    Virginia Hetcher / June 7, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    I wanted to comment on this latest law that is being considered I am a chronic pain patient. The laws now, anyone taking a controlled substance is a drug adict and is treated as such, with your organization. NYS has become the place not to be if you are sick with chronic pain. Oh you can say, hey if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. You should be worried and everyone else should be too, concerning this law. What is to say you suddenly you become ill and in horrible pain, your doctors say can’t help you, and send you to a pain management center. Right now people are forced into Pain Management a really big money maker for this speciality. If you looked at the real stats you would find that it is not the patient who is abusing perscribtion drugs. Its the doctor and his greed. Finally you are doing something in this state, by monitoring Big Pharm and its huge payments and free lunches for doctors. Greed. This is the truth look it up. You are constantly punishing the people who have to live with extreme pain. What a huge money maker for doctors. Keep making these laws, now that you have your group, I think it is time for the sick of this state to make an organization of people who suffer with chronic illness and pain. You have your organization how to stop anyone from taking narcotics. I don’t abuse my pain killers. I am forced to take urine tests now, sign a document saying I won’t abuse these drugs. Hey again, if you are doing everything right, and I am, but you say then it shouldn’t be a problem. What if you were going to get, lets say your diabetes medication, and you had to, get surprise urine checks etc. and all the other crap that we must go through, would you say, I have nothing to worry about, I am taking my medication that right way. You are losing your rights big time. I have worked at the U or R 8 years, and 2 other hospitals, people dying are undermedicated, because of laws that scare those doctors, they will die a lot of the time, in horrible pain. NYS is the most undermedicated state there is in this country I hope when the end comes for you, you will realize how demeaning your laws are. You only encourage the very thing you are trying to prevent. For me this is the last straw, as soon as I can leave NYS I am going. I have lived here all my life, and so has my family. My husband died from poisoned water at Camp LeJeune and Camp Pendleton, hey no one cares that 1 million were exposed, what NYS cares about making laws that encourage, a sick person either to move or find it someway. Isn’t this what you are trying to stop. I wonder those health prefessionals that you talk about does anyone of them suffer from chronic pain, heck no. I am pretty sure, because if they did, they would not help to pass another law, you are strangling the chronic pain patients. I had gone to a pain management center and only wanted the pain medication when I was in the most pain during the day. I was told if I wanted it that way, leave, or take either oxycontin, Methadone, morphine. I don’t want those drugs, now who is pushing drugs. The places we are forced to go to and if we don’t jump in there hoops, leave. Thanks so much for the past laws that are worthless, if you want to know how to stop prescription drugs. Ask me, but you won’t like the answer

  12. Avatar of Robert Royce
    Robert Royce / June 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    There were 144,913 deaths total in 2010. 35,092 died of cancer which they most likely struggled with for years. Perhaps another 50,000 or so also died after long battles from other debilitating painful diseases as well.

    Can you legislators ensure the people of New York that their loved one’s will be able to die with some dignity without suffering needless pain associated with a possible inability to have legal access to pain medications prescribed by their physicians who will be too afraid to prescribe them medication they need for fear of losing their licenses or being charged as criminals.

    R. Royce.

  13. Avatar of ann
    ann / March 10, 2012 at 7:47 am

    we have this in new jersey, the way i see this is: if we are not abusing the meds we are prescribed then we really have nothing to worry about, with this new law,doctors, and pharmacist can see that we are not doctor shopping, and not abuseing the meds that we have to take, it is all about quality of life when u live with chronic pain.the only reason this law is even being enforced is because to many quack doctors are prescribing meds to people that really don’t need them, and the abusers are using different phamacies along with a couple of doctors who don’t care one bit about them, if we weed out the abusers, then what are we afraid of.

  14. Avatar of Carrie
    Carrie / March 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I suffer from chronic pain due to a medical condition and have been on prescription pain killers for 3 years now. Without the pain killers, I literally would not be able to function on anywhere near a normal level. With them, I am able to work, pay taxes, care for my young children, and most days, function as a productive member of society. Current NY laws and regulations already make me feel that by taking the drugs that my doctor has prescribed, I am a criminal (or at least a suspect). If regulations, laws and processes are tightened, it will not stop, or even limit access to people who may use them illegally. They will always be able to get what they need, being merely an inconveince to them (and possibly a price increase for their efforts). It will hurt people like me.. the ones who actually NEED them. Who is defending my right, as a patient, to live a normal, pain-reduced life? Why aren’t legislators listening to the healthcare professionals who deal with this every day?

  15. Avatar of Patricia
    Patricia / August 13, 2012 at 5:46 am

    I have started hivnag major back pain, mainly in my lower back, but have never been to a doctor for it. Unfortunately in high school I chose to march a tuba in band for three years straight about 20-25 hrs. a week. I am only 4’10 and 105 lbs. Also, I am a waitress and I have to carry 50-60 lb. trays all day full of food. I have tried taking advil, tylenol w/codeine, ibuprofen- everything, even stonger stuff. Nothing has worked, except for my father’s vicodin which he lets me take on occasion. I want to go to the doctor and have him help me with this problem, but I don’t want to come off as a drug-addicted young person begging for pills, but so far vicodin is the only thing that has seemed to do the trick. And I don’t like going to the chiropractor, I just feel uncomfortable with someone touching my back and it cures the pain for a day then it comes back. So I don’t know how to tell the doc that I can’t get physical help with it.I dont really believe in taking pills, but lately vicodin has been wonderful to me. What do doctors usually prescribe or recommend for back pain? What do I do?oh I’m 20 by the way

  16. Avatar of Peggy
    Peggy / August 21, 2012 at 8:59 pm


    You may want to look into physical therapy to learn about strengthening exercises for your back, especially since you put so much strain on your back (Tuba? Really? hehe). The problem with using pills like Vicodin is that over time your body gets used to them, and needs more and more Vicodin to have the same effect. Eventually what happens is you get to a point where if you increase the dose any more, you reach a level of toxicity that harms your internal organs. Not that you are an addict by any means, but a problem that many people with legitimate pain encounter this type of problem. The moral of the story is to take the best care of your body ahead of time, while you’re still young! I agree with you that people who want to abuse these meds or sell or obtain them illegally will do so, regardless of this proposed I-STOP system. Best of luck to you and Take Care.

  17. Avatar of shelly holley
    shelly holley / January 16, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    I am in 100% agreement. Doctors should in the least not be allowed to profit monetarily from writing prescriptions. They should be required to do tests, mri’s xrays, cat scans, etc…before they start handing out prescriptions. And they need to start LISTENing to what their patients are trying to tell them. My initial pain started in my lower back and went down my legs and felt like it was just about everywhere within a space of 20 min. My husband rushed me to ER. The dr asked me a couple of questions then determined I had fibromyalgia and preceeded to prescribe me antidepressants. A couple of weeks later the muscle pulling in my face began. Several trips to different ERs and doctors trying to figure it out had me diagnosed with everything from muscle spasms to “just seeking attention”. I was diagnosed then with dystonia. I insisted for years that the original pains that were still reoccurring were not consistant with fibromialgia or dystonia but was denied further tests and/or mri’s or xrays. When I was able to go out on my own insurance 2 years later I went straight to a bone specialist and had an mri ordered. They found torn and compressed discs in my back that they said had been there for years. I ended up in and out of a wheelchair in the meantime. Because I was refused the neccesary tests to correctly diagnose the torn and compressed discs I was treated for years with the wrong medications which resulted in my being struck with dystonia and a chronic pain that is so bad that if I go a day without the morphine in my system I turn into something that doesn’t even look human that can’t see, walk or speak. I agree with the other comments. I feel like a criminal every month when I go in to get my meds. Yet, to this day, no one has been taken to account for doing this to me. My son is 20 years old. So he remembers me as a mom who worked to much but also made it to all his events and loved to go camping and swimming and just living life. My girls are 10. They are growing up with a mom who can’t make promises to be anywhere, who they have to watch cry out in pain as her body twists and postures and her facial features distort. I agree there needs to be a stop to the way dr’s prescribe meds. But the way they are going about it is wrong and people who could easily function and live life dispite their diseases, are going to end up vegetables or dead. Because of the doctors. I sound like a crazy when I describe this. I sound like it should be a gross exaggeration that couldn’t possible be occurring. But it is occurring and worse it’s been advocated by our government to make the patients pay for it and not the physicians. I cannot tell you in words how good it was to come across this comment page. Thank you thank you thank you for speaking up!

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