Greece, N.Y. --- The arrests were announced by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Office on Thursday. Five women face felony criminal charges for what officials called an “Oxycontin Ring.”
The narcotic is a controlled substance and authorities called Shantel Williams the “ringleader” of an operation that involved filling Oxycontin prescriptions, purchasing the drugs with Medicaid benefit cards, and then allegedly selling the product on the street.
Officials believe this was all possible because Williams had access to a doctor’s prescription drug pad and wrote “approximately 25 fraudulent prescriptions…for 80 mg doses of Oxycontin.”
The allegations shine a light on an issue of prescription drug abuse, something A.G. Schneiderman has championed for more than a year. His push for legislation resulted in “I-STOP” bill which calls for a statewide prescription drug database that will be up and running in late 2013 or early 2014.
"Often now instead of getting a written prescription the prescription is through the database in your office, the electronic medical record, and you can generate the prescription using software if you will,” said Jeffrey Allen, M.D. of Unity Health System.
Unity Health System is one agency that shifted to an electronic database for prescriptions before state standards are implemented. Dr. Allen said he handwrites perhaps 1% of the amount of prescriptions he did just five years ago.
"The days of the actual prescription pad are fading," Dr. Allen said. “Folks can still get their hands on a prescription pad and those are valuable to folks who want to use these on the street if you will."
A.G. Schneiderman pressed the need for new state standards after issuing a report in 2012 that showed the number of prescription narcotic pain killers in New York State increased by more than 6 million (to 22.5 million) since 2007.
The new online system is meant to track the use, abuse, and over-prescribing of these powerful drugs. It would require a prescribing doctor to check with the database before writing an electronic prescription. It would also include a confirmation step on the pharmaceutical side of the transaction before the prescription is filled.
"I can't get away from the old style of doing things electronics just confuses everybody," Bob Englant of Rochester said about the inevitable change. “I'd rather sit down with a piece of paper, write it all down."
"(But) Anybody can get it, anybody can take it any place,” Ed VanLeuven of Greece said. “Where if you do it electronically you can trace whose got it, where it's coming from, where it went so I think it's a safer system and I'm very happy with it."