New York State is considering a bill that would limit...

New York State is considering a bill that would limit patients seen in emergency rooms to getting no more than seven days of prescriptions, when there is a lack of proof that seven is less risky than nine or better than five. Credit: iStock

The amount of confusion circulating about two bills passed by the State Senate and Assembly that could weaken New York’s I-STOP program should be enough to earn them vetoes from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

I-STOP — short for Internet System for Tracking Over Prescribing — is the state’s electronic registry for doctors who prescribe controlled substances. It lets doctors and pharmacists check whether patients have multiple prescriptions for addictive opiate painkillers or multiple doctors doling them out. The registry was created in 2013 in response to a wave of addiction and crime that followed the proliferation of the pills in medicine cabinets and on the streets. For it to work well, prescriptions need to be issued electronically.

One of the new bills would let doctors prescribe drugs over the phone for nursing-home residents who need immediate help. The other would allow doctors to make a notation in a patient’s medical chart when they have to issue a prescription non-electronically because of a technical or equipment problem. Current law says doctors must inform the state Department of Health when that occurs, which is the right method. If they didn’t have to notify the state each time, it would be too easy for rogue doctors to say technical issues kept them from following the law.

The changes are meant to relieve hurdles associated with electronic prescribing, not the requirement to check I-STOP. But both new bills are also easily misunderstood, make it easier to prescribe opiates and could weaken the registry’s data collection.

Even now, supporters and detractors inside and outside government are arguing about what the bills even mean. Cuomo should veto them. They definitely need more clarity. — The editorial board

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