Report Finds Total Cost of Opioid Epidemic Reaches $179 Billion Annually
The total cost of the opioid epidemic is $179 billion per year in the United States, according to a new report by the Society of Actuaries.
A proposal to implement a prescription drug monitoring program in New York State has sparked a debate between legislators and two health care professional associations, Forbes reports.
The Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing (I-STOP) bill, proposed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last year, would require doctors to search patients’ medical histories for patterns of drug abuse before they write a new prescription for controlled substances. Pharmacists would have to check the database before dispensing painkillers, the article notes.
Doctors and pharmacists would enter information into the database every time a prescription for a controlled substance is issued or dispensed. Under current law, pharmacists must file a report twice a month. Doctors in New York are not required to report prescriptions.
The bill is endorsed by a bipartisan coalition of law enforcement and medical professionals and state and local legislators. However, the Medical Society of the State of New York, which represents 30,000 doctors, opposes the bill.
“We all agree that medications are being abused and diverted. What we’re concerned about is that if there are too many mandates or if they are too strict, it would create such a burden on physicians practices that some physicians would choose to stop prescribing,” Frank Dowling, MD, Commissioner of Public Health and Science for the Medical Society, told Forbes. He urged that the state’s current voluntary prescription drug monitoring program be improved. It is time-consuming to use, and is not updated regularly, the article states. The database is not available to pharmacists, and many doctors are not aware of it.
The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York also opposes I-STOP. Craig Burridge, Executive Director of the group, told Forbes, “The problem [with the current system] is that pharmacists don’t have access to the database. I-STOP would do that, but we don’t want it mandated. It’s not necessary for pharmacists to do the same thing that prescribers already do. It really gums up the flow at pharmacies, which are already understaffed and overburdened.”