O'Mara applauds approval of legislation to combat prescription drug abuse

Thomas F. O'Mara

August 28, 2012

Albany, N.Y., August 28—State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) today applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing into law a measure O’Mara strongly supported and voted in favor in the Senate to make New York State a national leader in combating prescription drug abuse.

“Prescription drug abuse has emerged as one of America’s most alarming, tragic and urgent public health challenges.  This action places New York at the forefront of addressing it and attempting to save lives, especially young lives, ” said O’Mara, noting that in 2010, over 22 million prescriptions for painkilling drugs were written in New York State -- not including refills.  “That’s a stunning figure, especially in a state where the entire population is less than twenty million.”   

Illicit use of prescription medicine has become one of the nation’s fastest-growing drug problems. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 15,000 people die every year of overdoses due to prescription painkillers. In 2010, 1 in 20 people in the United States over the age of 11 reported using prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons in the past year. Moreover, an estimated 70 percent of people who abuse prescription painkillers obtained them from friends or relatives who originally received the medication from a prescription. The problem is of particular concern with respect to young adults and teens.

Among many other provisions the new law will:

-- create a new and updated prescription monitoring program (I-STOP) to require the state Department of Health (DOH) to update and modernize its Prescription Monitoring program (PMP) Registry to make it one of the nation’s most effective systems to monitor prescription drug abuse and to help the medical community provide better care;

-- require electronic prescribing of controlled substances and make New York one of the first states to move from paper prescriptions to a system of electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) for all controlled substances with limited exceptions;

-- remove hydrocodone from Schedule III and placing it on Schedule II regardless of formulation. Hydrocodone is among the most abused and diverted prescription medications. Last year in New York, over 4.3 million hydrocodone prescriptions were filled — the most in the state. Nationally, eight percent of all high school seniors used hydrocodone for non-medical purpose. In 2009 alone, there were over 86,000 emergency room visits resulting from the non-medical use of hydrocodone;

-- recognize the need for increased education among health care providers about the potential for abuse of controlled substances, and the proper balancing of pain management with abuse prevention; and

-- require the state health department to establish a program for the safe disposal of unused controlled substances by consumers. 
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