Small Percentage of NY Health Care Providers Write Most of City’s Opioid Prescriptions

About 15 percent of health care providers in New York City wrote more than 80 percent of all opioid painkiller prescriptions in 2010, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The findings come from the Mayor’s Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse. The task force proposed strengthening the state’s drug monitoring system so that it contains more timely and complete information, requires physicians and pharmacists to consult the database to prevent overprescribing or misuse, and allows information in the database to be shared with local agencies working to fight prescription drug abuse.

The task force found 31 percent of the city’s opioid prescriptions in 2010 were written by about 530 health care providers, or 1 percent of those who prescribe these drugs. Among this group of prescribers, oxycodone prescriptions jumped 86 percent between 2008 and 2010.

During the past 20 years, New York City has experienced a 10-fold jump in the use of prescription opioids. The number of opioid-related emergency rooms visits jumped 40 percent between 2004 and 2009.

“In the face of opioid abuse, it is critical that we educate providers, pharmacists and patients on the potential dangers of painkiller misuse or overuse,” Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said in a news release. “Strengthening our drug monitoring system will help us work together to ensure that well-intentioned providers don’t inadvertently overprescribe these pills – with potentially dangerous consequences –and that we have the information we need to investigate those who are actively engaging in criminal behavior.”

John Feinblatt, Co-Chairman of the task force, said the report shows that some physicians are prescribing painkillers at an alarming rate. “With access to data on the prescribing of painkillers, local public health and law enforcement agencies would be able to play a key role in preventing overprescribing, identifying suspicious prescription patterns and keeping criminals from preying on those who are fighting addiction,” he said.

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