By: Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi
As previously reported, the recent rise in violence against pharmacies (by people in search of narcotic medications) has riled the New York State legislature into action. The attorney general has also joined the fray in the fight against prescription drug abuse. Last June, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, proposed setting up a new program known as “I-STOP”- Internet System for Tracking Over Prescribing – to combat the wave of prescription drug abuse. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and various experts have recently endorsed this program. The program is still in its initial phase of development, and the passing of new legislation and regulations are required to make this idea operational.
The concept of I-STOP is to establish an online database that would track controlled substance prescriptions for each individual. This would constitute a prescription-monitoring program (PMP). Under current laws in New York State, all pharmacies must provide information on all controlled substances that they dispense to the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE), which operates under the state’s Department of Health (DOH), on the 15th day of the following month after dispensing the drug. The problem arises from the fact that despite this data, many providers cannot or do not access the data. In addition, patients are only “flagged” if they meet certain criteria, such as filling two prescriptions for controlled substances from two different prescribers or at two different pharmacies. Furthermore, doctors do not provide any information on prescriptions they have written by hand. These limitations render the current prescription-monitoring program in New York rather inefficient. Under these conditions, the need for a program like I-STOP has risen.
I-STOP would require the Department of Health to set up an online database that would track all controlled substances. This program would require prescribers to review a patient’s profile for controlled medications and put in any prescriptions they write for controlled substances as soon as they give the prescription to the patient. It would also require pharmacists to review the patients’ controlled medication profiles prior to dispensing and to report the dispensing of any controlled medications at the time of dispensing. The program would ensure the privacy of the individual by prohibiting the disclosure of the information by any of the parties with access to the information. It imposes new penalties for those who disclose the information not acting in “good faith” as part of their duties. Unfortunately, there is no plan as of yet to integrate this system or create a national system where controlled medications may be monitored across state lines. Forty-three other states already have prescription monitoring programs. Sharing this information would discourage abusers from crossing state lines in order to get prescriptions for controlled substances.
I-STOP is currently is under legislative review. Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) is sponsoring it in the State Senate and Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) in the State Assembly. Both versions of the bill are currently in the health committees of the respective chambers of the New York State Legislature. The bill has support in both houses with 33 Senate members and 48 Assembly members co-sponsoring the bill.
The attorney general’s office has set up a website where people can share their stories in dealing with the drug abuse epidemic currently plaguing the state. This new website puts a “human face” to the problem in order to spur other members of the community and legislature into supporting the bill. It is available at http://www.ag.ny.gov/online_forms/istop.jsp.
For more information about the I-STOP program, please visit: http://www.ag.ny.gov/media_center/2012/jan/ISTOP%20REPORT%20FINAL%201.10.12.pdf