By Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- More than 325,000 prescriptions for controlled substances, filled more than 565,000 times, contained errors or inconsistencies in critical information, according to a state audit released Wednesday.
Nearly half of the drugs acquired with these prescriptions were powerful and addictive painkillers or sleeping aids, such as Oxycodone, sometimes called Oxycontin; Hydrocodone, also known as Vicodin; and Zolpidem, marketed as Ambien.
The Comptroller's Office audit found that the state Department of Health didn't adequately oversee the prevention of prescription drug abuse.
The health department's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement is the lead office charged with combating the illegal use and trafficking of controlled substances in New York.
"The abuse of prescription medications has reached epidemic proportions, and the costs to society are enormous," DiNapoli said in a statement. "The bureau needs to aggressively pursue new ways to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute illegal prescription activities."
During the audit process, the health department took steps to improve oversight of prescription drug processes, according to the comptroller's office.
The health department attributed many of these issues to data-entry errors, the comptroller's office said. The bureau was able to identify what it believes are the likely causes of about 50,000 discrepancies.
The health department did not immediately return a request for comment.
The audit also found more than 130,000 instances where data showed that the prescriptions used to obtain controlled substances contained invalid Drug Enforcement Administration registration numbers that did not match the prescriber.
The comptroller also found more than 180,000 instances where prescriptions appeared to have been filled at different locations or with inconsistent information about the prescriber or the drug dispensed.
According to the report, more than 90,000 prescriptions were refilled more than 157,000 times beyond their authorized refill quantities.
That included almost 12,000 prescriptions for controlled substances that were refilled more than 17,000 times. These types of medications are not allowed to be refilled because of their dangerous and highly addictive nature.
The audit found 135 instances where prescriptions had been written by practitioners whose licenses had been revoked, suspended, surrendered or otherwise inactivated.