Twenty-four members of New York's congressional delegation -- including all five who represent Long Island -- urged state legislative leaders Tuesday to adopt an Internet-based system for tracking narcotic painkillers from prescription through purchase.
The bipartisan group of representatives sent an open letter to the legislature saying they should approve a plan offered by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to track the issuance of prescriptions for painkillers in "real time" to prevent addicts from "doctor shopping" to get numerous prescriptions.
The plan "will result in preventing drug trafficking a well as identifying and treating patients who seek to abuse prescription drugs," they wrote, "and also crack down on 'doctor shopping,' the practice of frequenting several different doctors and pharmacies for prescription drugs."
They also noted that on Long Island, admissions to drug-treatment facilities "have increased at alarming rates" over the last several years.
The letter was signed by 24 of the state's 29 House representatives, including Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights), Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), Peter King (R-Seaford) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola). Four upstate Republicans and one Democrat didn't participate.
The letter comes less than a month after Schneiderman issued a report concluding that prescriptions for oxycodone, an opiate painkiller, skyrocketed 82 percent across New York from 2007 to 2010. Statewide, the number of prescriptions for all narcotic painkillers has risen about 36 percent, and admissions to hospitals for narcotics abuse have soared, he said.
Schneiderman said the state's current voluntary program fails to track the prescription and sales of narcotic painkillers.
A bill to implement Schneiderman's proposal is sitting in the health committees of the Senate and Assembly. Some physicians and pharmacists have said they oppose an Internet system because they think it would be less secure than the current one and that the attorney general's proposal would be too burdensome.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said Tuesday he supports "attacking fraud and illegal drug use" but didn't comment specifically on the bill.
State Senate Health Committee chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) had previously said the current tracking system was "overripe" for an overhaul, but he has yet to sign on to Schneiderman's bill. Hannon, who couldn't be reached to comment Tuesday, is planning to hold a "roundtable" on the topic this month.