Assemblyman Andy Goodell recently joined with Senator Catherine Young and other legislators to approve a bill that would reduce prescription drug abuse in Chautauqua County and across New York State, thereby reducing drug addiction and drug overdoses and cutting Medicaid and private insurance prescription costs.
Prescription drugs are the nation's fastest-growing drug problem, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, the CDC reports that prescription painkillers have now surpassed heroin and cocaine as the leading cause of fatal overdoses.
Prescription drug abuse is also huge problem in New York State. In 2010, there were 22.5 million prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, even though there are only 19 million residents in the state.
From 2007 to 2010, prescriptions for hydrocodone increased 16.7 percent, while those for oxycodone increased an astonishing 82 percent.
In Chautauqua County, hydrocodone prescriptions are 1.5 times higher than the statewide average, exceeding more than 45 prescriptions per 100 people.
In Western New York, opiate painkillers are prescribed 70 percent more frequently than the state average.
In addition to serious problems with addiction, prescription drug abuse has increased Medicaid and health insurance costs to local residents.
The New York State Medicaid program spent over $1 billion on controlled substance prescriptions over the past four years. These costs increased at an alarming rate of 38.4 percent from 2007 to 2010, some of which was driven by prescription drug abuse.
Prescription abuse also drives up private insurance costs since policyholders ultimately pay these costs.
In a recent report on prescription drug abuse, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stated that "doctor shopping," the use of multiple painkiller prescriptions and easy access to opioids have created a perfect storm, not only in the western part of the state, but throughout New York.
Under the current system, when a doctor writes a prescription for a controlled substance like Oxycontin, the doctor often has no knowledge that the patient may have already received prescriptions from other doctors for the same drugs.
To address that situation, the legislation requires a pharmacy to promptly report all prescription sales to a centralized data base, which can then be readily accessed by doctors to make sure that the patient is not obtaining multiple prescriptions from other doctors.
When a doctor prescribes painkillers, the doctor's office likewise reports the prescription to the data base so that the patients cannot forge the prescription.
"This legislation is an important step in curbing this dangerous epidemic, reducing prescription drug abuse, and reducing drug overdoses," Assemblyman Goodell said. "It is also part of a broader strategy to cut Medicaid costs and make private insurance more affordable. I was pleased to support this legislation."