Beginning on March 27, New York State will require all prescriptions to be created electronically and will impose penalties on physicians who do not comply. This mandate is a key component of I-Stop, a 2012 law designed to combat growing rates of prescription opioid abuse. According to Governor Cuomo, “this reform will improve patient safety, reduce the number of fraudulent or stolen prescriptions, and help combat prescription drug abuse across New York.”
Opioid abuse has become an epidemic in the United States, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
More people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record. The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid. And since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) nearly quadrupled. From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses. 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
As a result of this pervasive opioid problem, the CDC recently issued new guidelines to limit the prescription of these painkillers. These actions reflect government recognition of the gravity of the problem and steps toward repairing the system.
Initially, I-Stop overhauled New York’s Prescription Monitoring Program and required physicians to check the registry before prescribing a controlled medication. By consolidating each patient’s history online, this law allows doctors to spot a history of abuse more easily. The shift to electronic prescriptions aims to reduce the fraud and mistakes that come with paper prescriptions.
However, the law may have unintended negative consequences for consumers. As Sharon Otterman notes, patients “will no longer be able to shop around for the shortest waiting time or the best price for their medications.” New Yorkers will have to decide which pharmacy to use at the doctor’s office, and they will have to wait for their doctor to cancel the prescription and send it to another pharmacy if the medication is too expensive or unavailable. As a result of this inconvenience, doctors are more likely to prescribe more standardized regimens that pharmacies will be able to provide more easily. Though the measure has noble intentions, it may cost New York patients time, money, and choice.