Letter: Track prescriptions better

Prescription painkillers in this undated file photo.

Prescription painkillers in this undated file photo. (Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan)

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Regarding Dr. Maria Torroella Carney's opinion piece on opiate medicines ["Opiate medicines are lifesavers, too," May 31], I don't believe that any health care professional wants to deny a patient who is in need of pain relief. I am in my fourth decade as registered pharmacist, and I have never encountered a patient with a legitimate pain problem whom a physician would not try to treat with the most effective medicine available.

However, I have seen thousands of prescriptions for opioids that were prescribed unnecessarily and contrary to evidence-based medicine guidelines. The numbers speak for themselves. Americans constitute 4 percent of the world's population, yet they consume 80 percent of the global supply of opioids and more than 95 percent of the hydrocodone supply. From 2004 to 2009, emergency room visits from misuse of pharmaceuticals almost doubled.

Evidence has shown better outcomes in many cases with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy, without the dangerous side effects of opioids.

The Suffolk County grand jury report, along with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP) proposal, are positive steps in trying to reduce opioid use and addiction. Carney is misguided when she states that I-Stop would limit access to these drugs because prescribers would be afraid of penalties for incomplete compliance with the system.

A cohesive system that links doctors, dentists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pharmacists is urgently needed to curb abuse. Although it may add a minute or two to the workflow, all of us in the medical community must do what we can to prevent tragedies like those at pharmacies in Medford and Seaford in 2011.

Peter Goldstein, Seaford

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