New York, NY - October 20, 2016 - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today marked the 11th annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day by urging New Yorkers to dispose of unused drugs at Take-Back Day sites and drop boxes that are available year-round. Prescription Drug Take-Back Days are organized twice a year by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in conjunction with state and local officials to provide a safe, convenient, and legal way to dispose of unused prescription drugs so that they are not susceptible to abuse. Individuals can turn in drugs anonymously, whether the drugs were prescribed to them or not.
“Eliminating access to unused prescription drugs in medicine cabinets is a simple and effective tool in our fight against the opioid abuse epidemic that is tearing apart families across our state,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I encourage all New Yorkers to dispose of unneeded drugs at a local site on Take-Back Day, and to visit the Department of Health website to locate a year-round drop box.”
Prescription drug overdoses, and the related problem of heroin overdoses, are a growing epidemic across New York State. Studies have found that the majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. The goal of take-back days is to eliminate that path of access.
New York State has been a leader in successfully addressing the prescription drug abuse crisis in a number of ways. Attorney General Schneiderman led the effort to enact the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP, a comprehensive law to fight prescription drug abuse that created year-round medication drop boxes. I-STOP expanded on the model of the take-back day to make medication drop boxes available year round for the safe and legal disposal of unused prescription drugs. The I-STOP legislation, signed into law in 2012, established New York as the first state in the nation to mandate that physicians consult a real-time database – where pharmacists report every prescription they fill for a schedule II, III, IV, or V narcotic – to check a patient’s history before prescribing one of these powerful drugs. I-STOP mandated the rescheduling of hydrocodone to Schedule II, which ended automatic refills for this highly abused drug. The law also made New York the first state in the nation to mandate eventual universal e-prescribing.
In 2015, the New York State Department of Health announced that “doctor shopping,” a practice in which an individual attempts to obtain the same or similar prescriptions from multiple physicians, was down 75 percent in the first four months of ISTOP, and down 90 percent since 2014. I-STOP has been credited with helping reduce prescription drug abuse by addressing the problems of doctor shopping and the use of stolen or falsified prescriptions. In the program’s infancy, more than 45,000 prescribers conducted approximately 2.4 million searches in the database. In the first three days of operation, these searches identified more than 200 instances of apparent doctor-shopping. With the help of the medical community, the State of New York has made substantial progress in alleviating the problems associated with opioid drug abuse.
Attorney General Schneiderman’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has brought 40 cases since Jan 1, 2014 involving healthcare workers who diverted controlled substances in nursing homes or similar settings. Many of these defendants reported substance abuse problems starting from over-prescribed opioids, and exacerbated by the ready-availability of surplus pills in the workplace, at home and in their communities. Many of these defendants started their careers as dedicated healthcare workers, but succumbed to addiction in ways that made them put their problems ahead of the safety of the patients in their care. These cases often result in patients not getting necessary medications, or in the patient’s healthcare records falsely indicating that they received the required narcotics that were actually consumed by their caregivers.
I-STOP vastly enhances the effectiveness of New York’s prescription tracking system. Its goal is to enable doctors and pharmacists to provide prescription pain medications, and other controlled substances, to patients who truly need them. At the same time, it arms them with the necessary data to detect potentially dangerous drug interactions, identify patterns of abuse by patients, doctors and pharmacists, help those who suffer from crippling addictions and prevent potential addiction before it starts. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit works to identify prescription drug abuse and fraud in the healthcare field, to ensure that those responsible receive the help they need, while fighting to ensure that the medical needs of vulnerable New Yorkers aren’t subject to the whim of a caregiver whose judgment is clouded by addiction. These efforts, along with National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, will continue to make great strides towards quelling the opioid abuse epidemic that continues to tear apart families across our state.
For more information on the Drug Take-Back initiative, visit the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) website. Those looking to dispose of unwanted medications can find a list of local collection sites here.
Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration and the New York State Department of Health for organizing National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events across New York State.
Attorney General Schneiderman encourages nurses struggling with substance abuse to contact New York State’s Statewide Peer Assistance for Nurses (SPAN) at 1-800-457-7261, or by visiting here.