Deadly drug crisis is target of new OD, pain pill laws

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Less than a week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Heroin Task Force meeting on Staten Island, lawmakers are proposing new legislation to combat the opioid and heroin epidemic.

Cuomo attended the hearing May 25 and told Staten Islanders that he expects to get laws passed this session to address the deadly addiction crisis and asked for ideas that could be acted on quickly.

Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) and state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) announced new legislation Tuesday that would work in conjunction  with I-STOP — the prescription monitoring program — by requiring emergency room physicians to consult I-STOP database and report the overdose to the patient's prescriber.

Currently, the treating E.R. physician is not required to alert the prescriber of the medication overdose.  But according to a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 70 percent of patients who suffered from an opioid overdose were given the same prescription by the same provider after being treated for the OD.

"This will work to close the gap in communication between physicians," said Cusick.

Cusick also stressed that the passing of information doesn't mean the prescriber will no longer write a prescription, but rather help them properly medicate and recommend treatment services if necessary.

Lanza said it "just makes sense" that this valuable information gets back to the prescribing doctors so they can care for their patients properly and get them the help and resources they need.

Borough President James Oddo and District Attorney Michael McMahon support the  legislation.

LIMITING PAIN PILLS

During his opening remarks at the hearing, Cuomo conveyed a personal experience, recalling how his daughter came home from a routine surgical procedure with a month's supply of addictive medication.

"She came out with a month prescription of very powerful painkillers. If she had taken that month of prescription painkillers, I'm telling you, she would have had a problem at the end of the month, especially given her personality. How can a doctor be prescribing that amount?" Cuomo said. "Why aren't we limiting the number of pills that they can be prescribed initially? Because I think we're creating a lot of this addiction almost inadvertently." 

New York lawmakers are addressing that issue by proposing legislation that would limit the amount of opioid drugs prescribed after an initial doctor visit or surgery to a five-day supply; the number of doses in the five-day period would vary depending on the drug.

"The initial prescription is sometimes what leads to the addiction or the overdose, so limiting that should be helpful," said Richmond University Medical Center Emergency Department Chief Dr. Mansoor Khan.

Dr. Brahim Ardolic, chairman of the Emergency Department at Staten Island University Hospital, said he is "extremely supportive" of the legislation.

"The biggest number of prescriptions are coming in small numbers in regards to opioids," Dr. Ardolic said.

"Post-surgical people are going home with tremendous amounts of narcotics and most people don't take more than two or three pills, and more often than not, the remainder of those pills will sit in somebody's medicine cabinet and will probably be taken by somebody else," he said.

"Anything that we can do to limit the amount of pills on the street is going to reduce the number of deaths," he said. 

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