Abuse of prescription medication is a huge issue, impacting every segment of society. One of the ways that people traditionally obtain a ready supply of paid medication and other mood-altering prescription drugs is to engage in what is referred to as “doctor shopping.” We described the practice, and some of its consequences, in our blog of June 2012 (Prescription Drug Crackdown Leads to 98 Arrests).
A new online system for tracking prescription pill abuse went into effect in New York last week. It is known as I-STOP, which stands for Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing, and in the first several days of its availability, it was used by over 16,000 health care providers, who discovered at least two hundred instances of what appear to be doctor-shopping. Also, beginning last week, pharmacists who fill prescriptions for opoids are required to report the information on a real-time basis. Opoids are any psychoactive chemicals that resemble morphine. They include generic drugs such as hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone. These generic drugs are marketed under trade names including Vicodin, Dilaudid, Percocet, and OxyContin, among others.
The new system also requires doctors to consult a patient’s prescription history before prescribing certain medications, and this places New York in a leadership role, being the first state to do so. The intent of this requirement is to reduce both doctor-shopping by patients, and over-prescribing by doctors.
I-STOP is part of a law that was signed by the Governor in August 2012. The new law includes an overhaul in the way prescription drugs are distributed, and the way they are tracked, within the state. It requires that all prescriptions be transmitted electronically to pharmacies by March 2015.
It’s difficult to argue with the aim of the changes. We are assuming that this law will have its intended effect, and that over-prescribing and doctor shopping will be reduced. But we also expect that the black market for these drugs will continue, and perhaps expand, since so-called “legal” avenues for obtaining the drugs will begin to narrow.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016