The state Legislature has unanimously passed legislation aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse.
The Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, I-STOP, will set up an online database that lets doctors and pharmacists track controlled narcotics online. The bill had support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The bill mandates that physicians consult "a database of a patient's prescription history before prescribing a schedule II, III, or IV controlled substance," according to Schneiderman. Those prescriptions include morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl.
The bill also mandates universal "e-prescribing" by 2014. Schneiderman said online prescribing will eliminate the problem of forged or stolen prescriptions.
State Sen. Betty Little said law enforcement officials from the North Country have seen an uptick in prescription drug abuse in recent years. She said people abuse the system by going from doctor to doctor - a practice called "doctor shopping" - to rack up prescription narcotics. Those drugs are then abused or sold illegally.
"There was no way to keep track that this person or persons was filling this prescription and selling these medications," Little said. "They're trained to show where they had pain and how to fake it."
Little said the bill addresses Medicaid fraud, and will identify doctors who are over-prescribing.
Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague described prescription drug abuse as "an epidemic in the North Country." She said the new legislation should cut down on the availability of prescription medications and protect access for people who truly need them.
"Selling prescription medications is a lucrative business, and like any other illegally activity, reducing the amount of the product being sold illegally is a step towards eliminating the business," Sprague told the Enterprise. "Health care providers and pharmacies will be provided access to information that will reduce the possibility of individuals doctor or pharmacy shopping."
Sprague said she expects the legislation to have a big impact in the region.
"It is definitely a step in the right direction," she said.