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New York makes digital prescription mandatory to combat opioid abuse

Published On: 03-25-2016 in Category: Opioids


The United States is facing a major crisis with the number of deaths attributed to opioid overdoses skyrocketing in the past few years. According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published in January 2016, 28,000 opioid-related deaths were recorded in 2014.

Keeping the above situation in mind, the New York State Legislature has made it mandatory for doctors in New York to issue digital prescriptions to their patients.

According to NYS Public Health Law, with effect from March 27, 2016, doctors will have to electronically prescribe all medications and handwritten prescriptions will no longer be entertained, except in limited circumstances.

The new law makes New York the first state in America to necessitate use of digital prescriptions and inflict a penalty on medical practitioners who fail to implement the same.

It is a part of a law called the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-Stop) and was passed in 2012 to combat the rising opioid abuse problem in the state.

The new law is an important step to bring down the number of cases of opioid abuse and requires doctors to dole out prescriptions filed electronically as opposed to the usual system of handwritten notes with details of medicines scribbled on them. This comes in the wake of the need of completely abolishing the system of handwritten prescriptions to diminish the possibilities of fraud that arise when patients modify their doctors’ note for availing more prescription painkillers from pharmacies.

Emphasizing the need to replace paper prescription with its digital counterpart, Eric Schneiderman, Attorney General of New York told the Times, “Paper prescriptions had become a form of criminal currency that could be traded even more easily than the drugs themselves. By moving to a system of e-prescribing, we can curb the incidence of these criminal acts and also reduce errors resulting from misinterpretation of handwriting on good-faith prescriptions.” The I-Stop also focuses on the digital registration of patients’ prescriptions that doctors would need to consult before prescribing Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances.

Facts that hurt

As per the New York State Health Department, 27 million prescriptions for controlled substances were issued between 2013 and 2014, higher than the number of residents, not exceeding 20 million. The spike in opioid-induced deaths over the past 10 years hints that the state took far too long to put into effect a proper policy aimed at tackling rising cases of opioid abuse.

Crossing hurdles

The transition from paper culture to the digital form may not be smooth and may pose difficulties to patients who will need to make a choice of the pharmacy before getting their prescriptions filled ahead of time.

Also, it will disable patients to look for alternative pharmacies based on the shortest waiting time or the best available price for their medications. If the pharmacy is unable to provide the medication, the earlier prescriptions will have to be cancelled and new ones have to be re-issued by the doctors concerned.

Path to recovery

The nation is reeling under the opioid abuse epidemic. The impact of opioid abuse, and consequent addiction has only forced New York state officials to consider a shift from the pen to the mouse to fight the drug abuse menace.

Complete recovery from opioid dependence takes time. However, to completely eradicate the problem, proper counselling and help is required. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, call the New York Drug Treatment and Rehab Center at 646-666-7461 to know more about the specialized treatment plans.

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