A.G. Schneiderman Details I-STOP Plan To Address Rx Drug Crisis Plaguing Western New York

WNY Law Enforcement, Elected Officials, Medical Professionals, Community Members Announce Support For A.G.’s Online, Real Time Database To Track Prescription Narcotics

Groundbreaking “I-STOP” Legislation Would Crack Down On Abuses Like ‘Doc-Shopping’ And Rx Forgeries

Prescription Opiate-Related Deaths In Erie & Niagara Counties Up 59 Percent Since 2003


WEST SENECA — Amid Western New York’s growing prescription drug epidemic, a coalition of law enforcement, elected officials, medical professionals and community members joined forces to urge the passage of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing (I-STOP) plan for an online database that enables doctors and pharmacists to report and track certain controlled narcotics in real time. Today’s endorsement of I-STOP, announced at a press conference at the Kids Escaping Drugs Foundation in West Seneca, follows the recent release of a report by the Attorney General detailing the growing prescription drug abuse crisis in every corner of New York State. Statewide, the number of prescriptions for all narcotic painkillers has increased by six million, from 16.6 million in 2007 to nearly 22.5 million in 2010.

“Western New York is on the front lines of the state’s prescription drug epidemic, and it’s time to take action before another tragedy strikes. The law enforcement officials, medical professionals and family members on the ground – who see the devastation of this crisis firsthand – stand united to protect our communities by supporting I-STOP,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The time is now to enact a real time system to streamline communication between health care providers and pharmacists to better serve patients, stop prescription drug trafficking, and provide treatment to those who need help. Inaction is not an option.”

Prescription drug abuse is the country’s second most prevalent illegal drug problem, and recent reports and studies have documented corresponding data in the state of New York. According to the Attorney General’s recent report, the prescription drug crisis is particularly acute in Western New York where painkiller prescriptions, overdoses, and drug treatment admissions have increased at an alarming rate.

For example:

  • Statewide prescriptions for hydrocodone have increased 16.7 percent, while those for oxycodone have increased an astonishing 82 percent;
  • In Western New York, a Buffalo News investigation found three of the most abused narcotic painkillers (oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl) are prescribed by doctors at a significantly higher rate than in the rest of the state. The use of hydrocodone increased by more than twice the state average between 2007 and 2009;
  • Deaths in Erie and Niagara Counties related to prescription opiates (not heroin or methadone) increased 59 percent from 2003 to 2009 according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and
  • In Buffalo, New York’s largest methadone clinic outside of New York City, Catholic Health System, is beginning to reorganize its service to accommodate an increase in care needed to treat the number of addicted expectant mothers and their newborns.

Avi Israel, of Buffalo, father of Michael Israel who took his own life as a result of a prescription drug addiction, said, “I have lost my son Michael to medically-sanctioned addiction. Attorney General Schneiderman is proposing a system to stop these types of unnecessary deaths and addictions by giving medical professionals the tools to track prescription narcotics in real time.  For our families and those who are vulnerable to addiction, we cannot afford to wait to take action and we can’t afford watered down substitutes. I urge the leaders of the Legislature in Albany to pass Attorney General Schneiderman’s proposal that will save lives, and address the epidemic of prescription drug addiction now.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “Prescription drug addiction harms people who live in every one of Buffalo’s neighborhoods, and from every walk of life. I support the Attorney General’s I-STOP bill because it will close off the most common avenues for abusers and drug dealers to obtain prescription narcotics—including doctor shopping and the use of forged or stolen prescriptions.”

Ronn Tritto, Executive Director of Kids Escaping Drugs, said, “Several years ago Kids Escaping Drugs in partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement officials identified prescription drug abuse as a growing epidemic. We have all worked tirelessly to educate doctors, pharmacists, medical professionals, elected officials and the general public that our current prescription monitoring system is badly broken.  It must be fixed before more people of all ages die. That’s why Kids Escaping Drugs supports a strong bill that modernizes the current, outdated prescription monitoring system. It is vital that doctors and pharmacists can access real-time information to better treat their patients and help solve this crisis.”

Lynn Marinelli, Erie County Legislator, said, “The Attorney General’s I-STOP legislation is the right solution to combat prescription drug abuse and prevent tragedies from happening in the future. By giving doctors and pharmacists the ability to make informed decisions for patients in real time, this plan will help all stakeholders address the prescription drug epidemic in a comprehensive way.”

Frank Sedita, Erie County District Attorney also joined the Attorney General to announce his support for the I-STOP legislation at today’s press conference.

Today’s announcement comes in the wake of endorsements for the Attorney General’s I-STOP bill from U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as a bipartisan coalition of 24 U.S. Representatives from across New York State – including Rep. Brian Higgins, Rep. Kathy Hochul and Rep. Louise Slaughter, 20 addiction treatment provider organizations, the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, New York State Association of PBA's, and the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers, Inc.

Bipartisan support in the state Legislature for I-STOP is growing as well, with 37 Senate and 50 Assembly sponsors signed on to the bill, including Assemblymembers Jane Corwin, Dennis Gabryszak, Joseph Giglio, Andy Goodell, Sean Ryan, Kevin Smardz, and Senators Patrick Gallivan, Mark Grisanti, Tim Kennedy, Michael Ranzenhofer and Catharine Young.

Several weeks ago, Attorney General Schneiderman launched a new website, “Share Your I-STOP Story,” that showcases personal stories from New Yorkers who have been impacted by the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse. As momentum builds for legislative action, the site urges doctors, pharmacists, addiction sufferers and their family members to put a human face on the problem, and help persuade state lawmakers to pass I-STOP.

I-STOP will vastly enhance the effectiveness of the present system. Its goal is to enable doctors and pharmacists to provide prescription pain medications, and other controlled substances, to patients who truly need them. At the same time, it will arm them with the necessary data in real time to detect potentially dangerous drug interactions, identify patterns of abuse by patients, doctors and pharmacists, help those who suffer from crippling addictions and prevent potential addiction before it starts. Prescription drug monitoring programs operate in 43 states.

A copy of the Attorney General’s report on prescription drug abuse is available online at: Click Here.

The Attorney General’s “Share Your I-STOP Story” website is online at: www.ag.ny.gov/share-your-i-stop-story