Rochester, N.Y. – Tony Lodato got out of prison last month after serving a year for a drug-fueled attempted robbery. Among other things, he was popping pain pills.
“Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percocets,” he said.
Lodato bought his drugs on the street, but said he had doctor-shopped in the past to get pain pills.
“You can tell them you have a bad back, tell them your leg hurts,” he said. “You do what you got to do when you’re an addict to get the drug.”
Hoping to curb abuse, New York State will implement a real-time database of narcotic prescriptions. Doctors and pharmacists will be required to enter information every time they write and fill a prescription for these powerful opiates.
“It will be cumbersome. There’s no question about that. The question is how cumbersome,” said Dr. Michael McGrath with Unity Health System. He worries it could take time away from patients, especially if computers are running slow. He also wonders why both pharmacists and doctors must track the prescriptions.
Dr. Bharat Gupta, also with Unity Health, helped to implement a system-wide database. His patients also must agree to sign a contract saying they will not abuse the drugs, sell them on the street, go doctor-shopping, or use illegal substances.
“I think it’s a good idea. It will be a little difficult for providers because it will be time consuming, but this is the only way to stop it,” Dr. Gupta said.
Rick Briggs of Westfall Associates, a chemical dependency treatment center, said the database could be a good intervention tool.
“Opiate dependence is a very powerful condition and people are going to be driven to obtain the substances one way or another. This is one way it would start to interrupt the process, one way at least from our perspective people would be identified and referred to treatment more rapidly,” he said.
New York’s attorney general found prescriptions for narcotics increased by one-third since 2008 in Monroe County.
The database would be put in place sometime next year.
Despite concerns about implementation, there's widespread agreement prescriptions should be tracked.
"I lost a 10-year relationship, my car. I lost all my jewelry, a lot was from my parents," said Lodato. "A lot of regrets."