BUFFALO - A major provision of a state law to prevent prescription drug abuse takes effect Tuesday, creating an online database designed to keep people from obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors at the same time.
The Prescription Monitoring Program Registry is a part of the "I-STOP" law, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a year ago after the Assembly and Senate passed the legislation unanimously. I-STOP, which stands for "Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing," also changed prescription policies for drugs like Vicodin and requires doctors in New York to prescribe drugs electronically.
The new database is a key part of the law, though, and it's specifically intended to tackle a practice commonly referred to as "doctor shopping." Jessica Sherman, the director of the
Face 2 Face" program of the organization Kids Escaping Drugs, said addictions often occur when patients can request the same drugs from different doctors without detection.
"It won't be as easy to bounce from a doctor in Lancaster to Depew, to one in West Seneca. It'll make it difficult for people to get large amounts of these medications," Sherman said. "It helps doctors treat chronic pain, but it also holds them accountable."
That's the issue Avi Israel and his wife, Julie, have fought for ever since their son committed suicide two years ago. Michael Israel took prescription drugs to treat Crohn's Disease, but he eventually became addicted and then killed himself at the age of 20.
Avi joined state legislators Tim Kennedy and Sean Ryan -- as well as other families affected by abuse -- at a news conference on Monday to mark the one-year anniversary of the law's passage. He urged the creation of more detox and rehab facilities for people addicted to drugs and stressed that more people like Michael do still exist.
"We have millions of people in the pipeline," Israel said, "who do need our help."
Sherman said the abuse of prescription drugs has skyrocketed in recent years. According to the CDC, the amount of deaths from prescription drug overdoses has tripled since 1990. It claims more than 15,000 people die each year from overdoses.
"[It] has become tremendously epidemic," Sherman said. "It's not longer a drug they're progressing to. It's a drug they're starting with."