Talks on prescription tracking plan advance

A file photo of 80 mg pills of

A file photo of 80 mg pills of OxyContin. Photo Credit: Newsday, 2010 / Thomas A. Ferrara

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ALBANY -- Talks are accelerating on a wide-ranging state plan to improve tracking of prescriptions for addictive painkillers, make it harder to get refills and increase penalties for offenders.

Negotiations on the plan will likely pick up even more steam when the state Legislature returns from its Easter/Passover break Tuesday, officials said.

"Things are moving," said Assemb. Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island). "The governor, attorney general, Assembly and Senate are all involved in the talks, and I'm confident something will come together."

Cusick sponsored a bill to require an Internet-based process to track prescriptions instantaneously. Numerous legislators and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman favor such a "real time" approach to prevent what's called "doctor shopping" to get multiple prescriptions.

"We continue to have productive meetings with the governor's office and Senate and Assembly staff to ensure that I-STOP is passed in the coming weeks," Schneiderman spokeswoman Jennifer Givner said, referring to the attorney general's name for the real-time tracking system.

Republicans who control the state Senate have said they would rather tweak the current state Health Department database than introduce a new tracking system. Currently, the state updates its prescription database monthly, but will soon be able to do so daily, Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) said at a prescription-drug hearing earlier this year.

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Republicans also are pushing to include measures to criminalize illegal sales of drugs through so-called pill mills and to reclassify hydrocodone to the same group as oxycodone, an opiate painkiller. The reclassification would effectively ban automatic refills and tighten storage requirements for the drug. The Senate passed bills with such requirements in February.

Hannon did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Earlier this year he called abuse of addictive painkillers "one of New York's major public health problems."

"There are still some outstanding issues, but things are moving along," said Josh Vlasto, spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The governor hasn't expressed an opinion on moving to an Internet-based tracking system.

Schneiderman reported in January that prescriptions for oxycodone have increased 82 percent in New York from 2007 to 2010. Statewide, the number of prescriptions for all narcotic painkillers has risen about 36 percent during that time, and admissions to hospitals for narcotics abuse have soared, he said.

Schneiderman said the state's existing voluntary reporting program fails to track the prescription and dispensation of narcotic painkillers.

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