As of March 27, New York State is declaring a fiercer war against illegal drug abuse by officially implementing the e-prescribing law called the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP) Act passed on August 2012.

To acquaint you on what this is about, here are some points you need to know.

1. It is meant to curb the illegal distribution of controlled substances in the state.

The law under the state's Prescription Monitoring Program is intended to end or reduce the illegal distribution of controlled substances in the state.

New York has a serious problem in illegal drugs such as heroin, marijuana and opioids, which the current paper-pad system seems to support.

Drug cartels can funnel scripts to the black market by stealing several prescription pads and issuing them to their customers. Others, meanwhile, engage in doctor-shopping, where they visit one doctor to another to get the prescription that worsens their addiction.

Granted, the state already has a prescription monitoring program, but it has a serious flaw, which is not to make prescription reporting mandatory.

Under the e-prescription law, doctors and other clinicians are now required to enroll under the state's Health Commerce System, issue digital prescriptions and consult the database, which can store all the drugs that have been issued to the patient over the past six months, before they give prescriptions to patients.

"By mandating that doctors report their prescriptions in 'real time,' I-STOP enables subsequent doctors to detect that they are issuing a script to a person who has recently obtained one from another source," stresses [PDF] the attorney general's report.

The report also says that while it is possible that another doctor can be tricked into prescribing a similar drug - for instance, if the patient claims the original prescription got misplaced - consulting the database can put a halt to the prescription process. Doctors and pharmacists will be able to see the pending prescription and make inquiries to the doctor who issued the original script.

2. It doesn't eliminate prescription pads completely.

Prescription pads may still be necessary in times when the electronic system cannot be accessed, such as during natural disasters.

Some groups are also allowed [PDF] to continue issuing paper scripts. These include doctors working in nursing homes since they "would not have been ready by the deadline with an electronic system to send these prescriptions," said Dr. David Siskind, a nursing and rehabilitation center medical director.

There are already 60,000 electronic prescribers in the state.

3. It introduces civil penalties and a "new crime."

Although other states also issue e-prescriptions, New York is different since it's the first to provide civil penalties to law violations and a crime if someone accesses the database illegally. As to what these penalties are, they are still not specified.

4. Not everyone is 100 percent happy about it.

While the objective of the law is noble, some practitioners consider it as time-consuming and expensive, which explains why some old doctors who are more likely to retire in 2017 are believed have applied for individual waivers. Others are skeptical about its ability to reduce inaccuracies in recording and dispensing medications.

Photo: Kathea Pinto | Flickr

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