New York Physician Responsibility: Crack Down on Opioid Epidemic

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Doctors in New York State are undergoing a dramatic change in the method in which they prescribe medication to their patients. At the end of March 2016, all doctors are required to directly send prescriptions to pharmacies electronically instead of handwriting them. This method will apply to all forms of medication, most importantly pain medications. The change is being implemented in part due to rising opioid use in the United States. E-prescriptions are aimed to cut down forged prescriptions and to reinforce online prescription databases that help doctors keep track on drugs their clients are taking.

It has been recorded that the U.S. consumes more opioids compared to any other country in the entire world. But it is more concentrated in certain states such as West Virginia, New Mexico, Kentucky, Nevada, and Oklahoma, which also has the highest drug overdose death rates and has the highest painkiller prescription rates. It is also more common among the less educated and less wealthy. However, it is an issue that is present in all fifty states. To demonstrate the severity of this issue, death by drug overdose has increased by 650% from 1999 to 2010 in West Virginia.

Some doctors are skeptical of the coming changes. New technologies oftentimes come with many different kinks and challenges that users are forced to face. For instance, small doctor offices are going to be forced to purchase new equipment that can handle the new databases to send out prescriptions. Additionally, there is often a lack of efficient communication between doctors and pharmacies regarding e-prescriptions. If a patient’s desired pharmacy is closed, it may be an extensive process for the doctor to transfer the information to another pharmacy.

Although there is currently a lot of skepticism towards this transition, e-prescriptions are said to be easier, faster and more convenient for both doctors and patients in the long run. Minnesota was the first state to undergo this mandatory e-prescription process back in 2011 and New York State is going to be quickly following suit. Other states’ method of prescription is based on preference. However, this may be the way to help the ongoing opioid issue in the United States.

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