IN THE NEWS - STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE: Staten Island's Cusick and Lanza hail prescription drug registry legislation

Andrew J Lanza

June 06, 2012

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- With prescription drug abuse carving an ever-widening and deadly swath through communities across the country, including Staten Island, top state lawmakers today announced agreement on groundbreaking legislation, pushed by two borough lawmakers, aimed at eradicating the scourge.

The legislation, spearheaded by Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island) and state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island), creates a Prescription Monitoring Program registry, to be known as the PNP, that doctors would have to consult before issuing a prescription for controlled substances such as oxycodone.

Pharmacists would also have to report it to the registry each time they dispense such drugs.

The lawmakers said that the registry would prevent drug abusers from doctor- and pharmacy-shopping in order to get their fix.

"This affects millions of lives," said Cusick.

"We get to do something that you don't often get to do," said Lanza. "Save lives."

Cusick and Lanza said the Staten Island Advance's aggressive reporting on the issue was a spur to getting the legislation done.

Also under the law, the state Department of Health must put together a county-based drug takeback program so New Yorkers can dispense of their leftover prescription drugs and keep them from falling into the wrong hands.

The agreement came after negotiations among the Island lawmakers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and legislative leaders.

"This landmark agreement will help put a stop to the growing number of fatalities resulting from overdoses on prescription drugs," said Cuomo. "We have seen too many untimely deaths as a result of prescription drug abuse, and today New York State is taking the lead in saying enough is enough.

Schneiderman was on the Island in March pushing his drug-registry proposal, known as "I-STOP."

The new bill incorporates aspects of I-STOP, Cusick said, as well as other measures, and aspects of a drug-registry bill first crafted by Cusick and Lanza around two years ago.

"This is a major victory for the people of New York," said Schneiderman. "With I-STOP, we will create a national model for smart, coordinated communication between health care providers and pharmacists to better serve patients, stop prescription drug trafficking, and provide treatment to those who need help."

Cusick and Lanza said that the bill should pass both houses next week. Cuomo will then sign the bill into the law.

Lanza and Cusick said the law was the first of its kind in the nation.

"This is a big, big victory," said Cusick. "It's something that we think will be a big piece of the puzzle in stemming the tide of this epidemic."

"We think we have a very good product here," said Lanza. "We think it's cutting edge."

In two years of investigative stories, the Advance has long chronicled the impact that prescription drugs have had on the Island, which is the epicenter of the city prescription drug crisis.

Cuomo also praised GOP Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for the legislation.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) has proposed similar legislation on the federal level.

Published: Tuesday, June 05, 2012, 7:01 PM by Tom Wrobleski