Bloomberg touts city's fight against pain pills

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a mayoral candidate forum. (Jan. 18, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the keynote address at the National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit Wednesday, touting his administration's effort to curb the epidemic of painkiller pill abuse in New York City.

Bloomberg told the gathering in Orlando of about 1,000 public health, law enforcement and substance abuse treatment professionals that the city had helped create NYC RxStat, a database that provides law enforcement agencies with prescription-related robbery and burglary police reports, along with related data, in the metropolitan region.

The database, modeled after the NYPD's CompStat crime-tracking program, is helping local and federal health officials and police identify drug-related crime trends and pharmacy security gaps, he said.

"It's a very sobering problem," Bloomberg said of prescription drug abuse. "Lots of people are dying because of it. Fatal overdoses occurred at the rate of more than one every other day" in the city in 2011.

The RxStat database, begun in January, includes information from Long Island. New York City officials have said the shooting deaths of four people inside a Medford pharmacy in June 2011 and the killing of an off-duty federal agent at a Seaford pharmacy later that year spurred the creation of the database.

Bloomberg also hailed the city's launching this year of new guidelines for all city-run hospital emergency departments, which recommend that ER doctors prescribe no more than three days worth of many powerful painkillers and stop refilling opioid prescriptions that patients say were lost or stolen.

The policies have been adopted by all 11 public hospitals in the city, as well as eight private hospitals.

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The mayor said public officials across the country must respond to the opioid abuse crisis by creating policies that curb addiction and deaths.

"If they don't want to do it, or are too lazy to do it, the public will hold their feet to the fire," Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg described other city innovations in the battle against pain-pill abuse, including an initiative to deter drugstore holdups by placing decoy bottles of OxyContin that contain a GPS device -- instead of drugs -- at some city pharmacies.

The program, which began last month, allows authorities to track criminals immediately after robberies or burglaries take place.

"It is getting to be Big Brother, but Big Brother has a role to play as well in terms of stopping our kids from dying, from using painkillers, and we've got to use all the technology that's available to try to stop some of these crazy things," Bloomberg said.

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Between 2005 and 2011, unintentional overdose deaths involving opioids increased by 65 percent in the city, Bloomberg said.

"It's clear that painkillers are causing an awful lot of pain -- and certainly also an awful lot of deaths. This is, by any definition, truly a crisis, and it's a crisis that's growing."

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