New criminal sanctions would be imposed on doctors and pharmacists who illegally dispense or sell prescription pain killers, under a proposed bill expected to be introduced in the State Senate.

State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said Wednesday his proposed legislation would close a loophole in the law, which now punishes only physicians who illegally prescribe such medication. He cited the case of Dr. Stan Xuhui Li, a hospital anesthesiologist who ran a Queens pain clinic and prescribed more than 2,500 pain pills to Medford pharmacy gunman David Laffer, convicted of killing four people to steal 10,000 hydrocodone pills. Li was not charged in the Laffer case.

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"The number of accidental overdose deaths caused by prescription pain killers has reached alarming, almost epidemic proportions in New York," Hannon said in a news release. "In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that more people die from prescriptions drug overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined."

Prescription painkiller abuse has exploded across the region, with oxycodone contributing to more overdose deaths on Long Island last year than heroin.

In Suffolk, District Attorney Thomas Spota said he will create an investigative unit of seasoned narcotics and insurance investigators, along with pharmaceutical industry professionals, to examine the problem of prescription drug abuse in the county.

A bill from Hannon in May would strengthen prohibitions against an exploding black market for prescription drugs including the illegal use of prescription forms. The bill passed the Senate unanimously in June and was sent to the Assembly. With James T. Madore