Mayor Bloomberg announced last week that city emergency rooms would stop writing prescriptions for Schedule II narcotics such as OxyContin, Fentanyl and Morphine. This step was taken to combat the growing tide of prescription drug abuse in New York City. Some health professionals, however, question the effectiveness of the policy.
On top of eliminating ER prescriptions for strong narcotics, the law puts limits on the amount of Schedule III narcotics (Vicodin, Percocet) that can be given to ER patients. The law carves out exceptions for certain situations such as palliative care patients. Critics maintain the law will hurt poor people who often do not have immediate access to specialists and primary care physicians. They also note that ERs write very few prescriptions for strong narcotics.
This is not the first piece of legislation Bloomberg has enacted to curb prescription drug abuse. His administration pushed hard for a prescription monitoring system, the first in New York legislative history, to prevent doctor shopping and over-prescribing. His administration has also gone after doctors they felt were writing too many or fraudulent prescriptions for narcotic drugs. Although the rates of prescription drug abuse has dropped slightly in recent years, they are still the most widely cited drugs in overdose deaths.