Mayor Michael Bloomberg released his initial report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse last week at Elmhurst Hospital in hopes of preventing further abuse of opioid painkilling medication.
Responding to recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which have shown a 143 percent spike in painkiller-related visits to emergency rooms in New York between 2004 and 2009, the task force has set out to create a more open dialogue with everyone involved in prescribing those types of medicine to patients in the future.
“Prescription painkillers can provide life-changing relief for people in dire health situations, but they can be extremely dangerous if used or prescribed improperly,” Bloomberg explained. “Working with health care providers and public health providers and health criminal justice experts, our task force is providing the tools to fight a burgeoning epidemic while protecting legitimate health care needs.”
The task force, made up of a number of leaders in law enforcement and health agencies including Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Thomas Farley, will be asking hospitals to stop prescribing long-acting doses of opioids with a three-day supply limit, as well as require patients to set follow-up appointments with their doctors to receive additional doses.
For hospitals like Elmhurst that choose to sign on to the plan, task force guidelines will make available the patient’s controlled substance history records to providers and pharmacists, and require immediate feedback from pharmacists on all prescriptions to create a dialogue with everyone involved in the prescription process.
Doctors will also be asked to no longer refill lost, stolen or destroyed prescriptions.
Since 2010, three out of four people abused painkillers from left over prescriptions and 32 percent of unintentional drug overdose deaths have been related to prescription painkiller abuse, according to the CDC.
While Farley explained that the task force can only do so much to ensure doctors are providing the proper dosages to alleviate pain, an open dialogue with everyone involved should reduce these numbers in the future.
“Prescription opioid painkillers can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs,” Farley stressed, explaining that in medicine, the measure of pain can be subjective in evaluation. “These new guidelines will help reduce prescription drug misuse while also making sure that patients coming to the emergency departments have access to safe and appropriate pain relief options.”
The task force is in partnership with NY/NJ High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) in their creation of RxStat, a program to create an open dialogue with city, state and federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, to share data to help target which areas need the most focus.
Developed with health care and law enforcement officials, the RxStat program is intended to not only keep doctors in the loop with their patients, but also provide law enforcement officials with data to stay on top of regional drug trends.
“RxStat provides us with a truly unique opportunity to design the most effective strategies to reduce prescription drug abuse and its consequences,” said NY/NJ HIDTA director Chauncey Parker. “By combining the knowledge resources of the key public health and public safety partners, RxStat creates a platform where we can use timely and accurate data to quickly identify emerging drug trends and then coordinate our response.”
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan is confident the program will not only augment criminal investigation of drug abuse in the city, but also prevent a swell in the painkiller abuse epidemic.
“Our recent prosecutions have highlighted the tragic connection between opioid addiction and criminal activity,” Brennan explained. “Hopefully these guidelines will serve as a model of responsible prescribing for the entire medical community.”