Opioid Overdoses Fuel Rise in Accidental Deaths
Opioid overdoses are fueling a sharp increase in accidental deaths in the United States, according to a new report by the National Safety Council.
Oxycodone prescriptions jumped 82 percent in New York State from 2007 to 2010, The New York Times reports. The state’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, who issued the findings, said they demonstrate the need for legislation to create an online, real-time database to report and track both the prescribing and the dispensing of certain controlled substances.
Prescription drug abuse has been a particular concern on Long Island, where several recent drug robberies turned deadly.
The Attorney General’s new report notes that the number of prescriptions for all narcotic painkillers increased from 16.6 million in 2007 to nearly 22.5 million in 2010—a 36 percent increase. In addition to the surge of oxycodone prescriptions, there was a 16.7 percent rise in the number of hydrocodone prescriptions over the same period.
Under New York’s current prescription database system, pharmacists must report sales of controlled substances at least every 45 days. The prescriptions themselves are not tracked. Pharmacists cannot confirm whether a prescription is valid unless they call the physician who wrote it.
The new system would create a real-time tracking database, the article notes. Doctors would have to check a patient’s prescription history in the system before writing a prescription, and would have to report a prescription for controlled substances at the time they write it. Pharmacists would have to confirm prescriptions of controlled substances with the system before they fill them, and the filled orders would be reported.
The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York told the newspaper that while it generally supports the proposal, it is concerned that pharmacists would have to check prescriptions for the most dangerous drugs and would face fines for knowingly failing to do so. Craig Burridge, Executive Director, said pharmacists should simply be able to check on customers they do not know.