New York City ERs Crack Down on Oversupply of Painkillers

New York City may be setting a precedent when it comes to waging war on the nation’s prescription drug addiction. It’s no secret that opioid analgesics have become a cult favorite among the population, with over 200 million prescriptions written every year.

Annually, this group of drugs claims the lives of over 16,000 people.

Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor, has developed a program to target the city’s hospital emergency departments where abuse of opioids has been allowed to fester. In 2009, New York City saw more than twice as many people being admitted to its emergency rooms for misuse of opioids than just five years prior.

The city has 11 hospitals that will be participating in the program, working to minimize the amount of painkillers distributed from their locations.

According to a USA Today report, though prescriptions for opioids don’t originate in the ER, it’s not uncommon for emergency room doctors to provide excess supplies for pain relief. And data shows that three-quarters of those using painkillers for non-medical reasons access them from unfinished prescriptions.

Physicians’ reimbursements are often directly linked to patient satisfaction, so it becomes easy to understand how doctors might feel obligated to provide unnecessary dosages. But with a drug that is said to be structurally similar to heroin, excess dosages may be the catalyst that throws open Pandora’s Box.

Proponents of New York City’s plan to address oversupply stemming from emergency room visits say that such a system should be implemented nationwide. Under the new regulations, emergency room patients will only receive a three-day supply of short-acting medications, while extended release opiate painkillers like OxyContin will not be prescribed at all. Prescriptions that are misplaced or stolen will not be replaced.