AG: LI center of NY prescription epidemic

N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman explains plans to create a database to monitor drug prescriptions, prevent abuse, protect the pharmacy community and help law enforcement. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Feb. 21, 2012)

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State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was on Long Island Tuesday -- the place he called "the center of the state's prescription drug epidemic," to gain support for a bill to better monitor who is using narcotic medicine.

"It's time to take action before another tragedy strikes," Schneiderman said at a news conference at the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Mineola. "The law enforcement officials, medical professionals and community members on the ground, who see the devastation of this crisis firsthand, stand united to protect our communities."

Joining Schneiderman were Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and District Attorney Kathleen Rice, along with State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and a half-dozen other local state officials.

Schneiderman's Internet System for Tracking Over Prescribing, I-STOP, plans for an online database that enables doctors and pharmacists to report and track certain controlled substances quickly.

The current monitoring system allows only doctors in, and many of them shun it. Schneiderman's proposal will give access to virtually anybody designated by a doctor in his office.

Mangano said they were there to "declare war on the opiates. I urge quick passage of the I-STOP by my colleagues in Albany."

Tuesday's announcement came as pharmacists across Long Island bolster security to prevent repeats of deadly pharmacy holdups in 2011. On New Year's Eve, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent was shot to death in Seaford in a moment of confusion after a pharmacy robbery. The holdup man was also killed. That shooting came months after four people were shot to death inside a Medford pharmacy on Father's Day by a man who stole painkillers.

Jordan Fogel, a pharmacist at Linden Care in Syosset, where the pharmacy is protected by bulletproof glass and an armed guard, said: "The recent spate of violent pharmacy robberies has been a wake-up call."

Schneiderman said that statewide, the number of prescriptions for all narcotic painkillers has increased by 6 million, from 16.6 million in 2007 to nearly 22.5 million in 2010. "This is a problem that cannot be treated with Band-Aid solutions," he said.

Rice said the proposed plan "will help law enforcement and the medical community combat prescription abuse to prevent tragedies from happening."

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