Oxycodone Prescriptions Rose Sharply in New York

In a stark depiction of the rapid spread of prescription drug use and abuse in New York State, a new report shows that prescriptions for oxycodone, a widely prescribed narcotic painkiller, rose by 82 percent from 2007 to 2010.


The report, which the state’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, issued on Wednesday, was offered in support of a drug-tracking system that Mr. Schneiderman proposed last year and hopes the Legislature will enact.

Addiction to painkillers has been behind a nationwide surge in pharmacy robberies, where pills, not cash, are the target. This crime wave is of particular concern on Long Island, where two robberies last year resulted in six deaths.

According to the report, which was first disclosed by Newsday, almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in the state in 2010, a 36 percent increase from 2007. In addition to the significant acceleration in prescriptions for oxycodone (the main ingredient in OxyContin), the report cited a 16.7 percent increase over the same period in prescriptions for hydrocodone (the main ingredient in Vicodin), another painkiller often sought by robbers.

The report showed an especially high quantity of prescriptions being written on Staten Island and in large areas of Suffolk County, at rates of one and a half times the state’s median.

Under the proposed legislation, the Health Department would put in place an Internet tracking system that goes beyond what most states employ.

New York’s current system requires pharmacists to report sales of controlled substances at least every 45 days. Prescriptions themselves are not tracked, and pharmacists cannot confirm the validity of a prescription unless they actually call the doctor.

The proposed system would give pharmacists and doctors access to a real-time tracking database.

Physicians would be required to check a patient’s prescription history on the system and to report prescriptions of the most dangerous controlled substances when they are written. Pharmacists would be required to confirm prescriptions of these drugs on the system before filling them. These filled orders would then have to be reported.

A number of bills are being proposed in Albany to address the prescription drug addiction problem. State Senator Timothy M. Kennedy, a Democrat from Buffalo, introduced four related bills this month, one of which calls for a monitoring system similar to what Mr. Schneiderman proposed. Mr. Kennedy, who is supporting Mr. Schneiderman’s proposal, is also seeking mandatory training on addiction for doctors and pharmacists, among other steps.

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