Advocates who have fought for years to raise the awareness of the dangers of opioid medication are now worried that New York State may be opening new loopholes to allow the unmonitored distribution of those prescriptions.
Two bills passed the NYS legislature this year that allow exemptions from the State's e-prescribing requirements ( I-STOP). That legislation is now waiting for Governor Cuomo's signature before it goes into effect.
The first measure (S.67778/A.9334) allows nursing homes to have a permanent exemption regarding e-prescription requirements because doctors are not physically in nursing homes 24 hours a day. However, those against the legislation say it opens the door to untraceable abuse and makes it easier for controlled medication to get into the wrong hands.
The second bill (S.6779/A.9335) will allow doctors a no-filing requirement when a physician uses an emergency exemption to prescribe controlled medication. Under the current law, doctors have to file prescription information within 72 hours after an emergency exemption with the NYS Department of Health. The change will only require a doctor to put a note in the patients file. Advocates for opioid education say the proposed change will open the door for misuse and make it harder for law enforcement to track abuse.
Regarding the nursing home provision, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the Assembly Health Committee Chair and one of the sponsors of the legislation, said in a statement that "the waiver is written in a way that gives a misimpression" and the "legislation does not touch any part of the I-STOP system."
Avi Israel (Save the Michaels of the World, Inc.) and Dr. Richard Blondell, MD (Addiction specialist, UB Family Medicine) are among several people who sent a letter to Governor Cuomo imploring him to not sign the legislation because it "would shockingly create opportunity for the proliferation of pills, as well as opening a window for inappropriate practices."
An online petition is also being circulated by Save the Michaels of the World, Inc. asking the governor to not make any changes to I-STOP.
"We have a big enough problem with addiction and we don't need to be opening any more loopholes," said Dr. Blondell, MD.
"I-STOP is only a few year old and already there are attempts to weaken it," added Avi Israel who said NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also concerned about the legislation.
I-STOP was signed into law in 2012.
7 Eyewitness News reporter Ed Reilly spent the day talking with Avi Israel and Dr. Richard Blondell about the issue.
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