The New York State attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, says the illegal trafficking of prescription drugs is epidemic on Long Island. This week, he announced legislation that would create a database intended to slow the rate at which narcotics end up on the street.
Local police are dealing with nearly as many suspects high on pills, such as painkillers, as with drunken drivers. According to the attorney general’s office, drug treatment admissions, linked in part to oxycodone and other narcotics, soared by nearly 80 percent in Suffolk County from 2007 to 2010. Authorities believe that many of the pills reaching abusers are obtained with fraudulent prescriptions. And violent crime has been associated with these substances, as well.
If passed, the bill would require doctors to check with an online system before writing prescriptions and pharmacists to do the same before dispensing these drugs, which would help spot wrongdoing. As burdensome as this sounds, it, or a similar program, is necessary, but should be established correctly.
Details about how the database would work have yet to be provided. The greatest challenge will be to protect patient privacy, something required under state and federal law. There are legitimate conditions for which the Food and Drug Administration allows these drugs to be distributed. A method to assure that doctors are able to order them for the people who really require them — without placing law enforcement hurdles between doctors and pharmacists — will be essential.