New York Moves To E-Prescriptions To Curb Drug Abuse

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Photo by Park Slope Stoop

Photo by Park Slope Stoop

A key component of New York’s effort to bring down opioid abuse — which requires doctors to file prescriptions electronically rather than with handwritten notes — takes affect next week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced.

The mandate, which begins March 27, is part of the I-STOP initiative and requires all prescriptions written in New York State to be transmitted electronically from the prescriber directly to the pharmacy.

“This reform will improve patient safety, reduce the number of fraudulent or stolen prescriptions, and help combat prescription drug abuse across New York,” Cuomo said in a press release. “Addiction can affect anyone from any walk of life and this administration will continue to use every tool it can to combat this epidemic and provide help to those in need.”

The new law makes New York the first state to introduce penalties for doctors who do not use the new system, according to the New York Times. I-STOP was signed into law in 2012 to address a surge in painkiller abuse and overdoses.

The Times reports that more controlled-substance prescriptions (27 million) were written in New York State than the number of residents (20 million). Meanwhile, the number of opioid-related deaths have skyrocketed during the last decade. The were 341 such death in 2004. By 2013, that number had jumped to 1,227, according to the Times.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who co-sponsored the legislation that included e-prescribing, hailed the implementation of the law.

“Like other I-STOP provisions, e-prescribing will provide a better mechanism for communication between health care professionals and pharmacists,” he said in a press release sent by his office. “By reducing the number of fraudulent or stolen prescriptions, we improve patient safety and help to combat prescription drug abuse across New York State.”

The new law has received some pushback from patients and medical professional, who say the digital system makes it more difficult for patients to shop around at different pharmacies. They will have to come in to their doctor’s office knowing which pharmacy they want to use, according the Times.

More than 60,000 prescribers already use the new system, which requires doctors to consult the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry when writing prescriptions for Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances, according to the governor’s office. The data is used to identify prescription fraud and patients who might be abusing the drugs.

Cuomo granted a one-year extension to the mandate in March 2015 to give prescribers more time to convert to the new system.

The law also provides exceptions for prescribers to not use the system, such as during disasters, technological or electrical failures, and other exceptional circumstances.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker praised the reforms.

In a press release from the Governor’s Office, he said: “Digital securities such as e-prescribing and prescription monitoring promote safe and efficient medication administration that both providers and their patients will appreciate. These policies demonstrate that DOH’s priority is always the safety and well-being of patients.”

  • Sean F

    Great idea, except as they noted, with respect to patients now being beholden to a single pharmacy. The pharmacies closest to my house aren’t 24 hour, so when my kids have a late-night medical emergency, it’s now going to be up to me to have the latest information on which is the closest pharmacy that is currently open 24 hours. And that information changes regularly. Several times, I’ve had to drive all over Brooklyn at 2 in the morning
    to find a pharmacy that could fill an emergency room prescription. The Rite Aid I used to rely on is no longer 24 hour, and the one before that changed its hours back and forth several times. People will suffer under this law, unless doctors are required to have up-to-date information about pharmacy hours in their records, so they can point their patients to the nearest open pharmacy.