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Advocates: Reduce addiction by mandating docs' pain management courses

ALBANY - Parents and relatives of young adults who died from addiction-related deaths rallied at the State Capitol Tuesday for a bill that would mandate that physicians take more courses in pain management. But advocates are facing stiff opposition from the doctors' lobbying arm.

Advocates said overprescribing of painkillers such as hydrocodone is creating a younger generation of addicts. They are calling for legislation to make physicians take three hours of courses in pain management every two years to keep up with the latest in treatment and trends.

"It is the sad reality that literally every day, a family wakes up on Long Island to discover a loved one has died from an opioid or heroin overdose," said Ira Costell, a Port Jefferson Station resident whose nephew died of a drug overdose eight years ago.

The advocates, who played a role in 2012 in getting the state to track opioid prescriptions, said more needs to be done to reduce addiction.

Avi Israel, a Buffalo resident whose son, Michael, killed himself in 2011 while addicted to prescription painkillers, noted the proposal allows physicians who don't prescribe medications to opt out of the education requirement. The requirement was part of a proposed package of anti-heroin and anti-addiction measures last year, but was not included in a series of bills lawmakers ultimately approved.

The Republican-led state Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week, but it has stalled in the Democratic-controlled Assembly. That is in part due to opposition from The Medical Society of the State of New York, the doctors' lobbying arm.

In a memo to legislators, the Medical Society said that prescription practices have changed since the state implemented the tracking system and that doctors already take 50 or more hours of continuing education courses.

"There is no course requirement now in statute that requires a physician to take a course every two years," the medical society said.

The legislature plans to adjourn for the year on June 17.

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