New law to help address painkiller-related crime
As the investigation continues and local individuals, Spring Creek Pharmacy employees and customers keep an eye out for the perpetrator, a statewide crackdown on drug-related crime is also ongoing.
Both the New York state and federal governments have taken steps to monitor prescription narcotic use, at both the pharmacy and physician levels.
On June 5, state lawmakers signed an agreement, known as the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing, to require physicians and pharmacists to check a “real-time” database before dispensing certain drugs, including narcotic painkillers. This expanded the use of what is known as Prescription Monitoring Programs, which are intended to prevent “doctor shopping,” or patients’ going to several physicians for multiple narcotic painkiller prescriptions.
New York state will also become the first state to require physicians to consult a database that includes a patient’s history of medications before prescribing, according to the health department. That measure is intended to prevent both drug interactions and the over-prescribing of narcotics. Pharmacists will also be required to report to the database when prescriptions for narcotic painkillers are filled.
By December 2014, the law will also require electronic prescriptions for certain drugs, in an effort to prevent fraudulent paper prescriptions. New York state will be one of the first states to enact such a measure.
Spring Creek Pharmacy owner Dave Williams said he suspected that the I-STOP law could cause prescription abusers to become “more aggressive. The state and federal government are going to start monitoring these prescriptions and it’s going to be more difficult to get these drugs ... That’s why, when the [robbery suspect] took these drugs by force, I don’t think that is the last time we are going to have this [type of] problem.”
According to the White House Office on National Drug Policy, prescription drug misuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified the misuse of narcotic painkillers as an epidemic, with 1.3 million emergency room visits in 2010, a 115 percent increase, since 2004. In 2008, deaths associated with overdose on opioid pain relievers surpassed deaths from heroin and cocaine for the first time.
Dale Kasprzyk, resident agent in charge of the Buffalo resident office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the rise in pharmacy robberies is associated with an increase in addiction to narcotic painkillers in the United States.
Additional safeguards, such as the banning of automatic refills on listed medications, limiting patients to a 30-day supply of certain kinds of narcotics, such as hydrocodone and instituting a new drug disposal program, may also be part of the initiative, as time goes on.
“A database will be established, where there is a serial number on the prescription and it can be tracked,” Williams explained. “Even if you get one filled at Rite Aid and one here, we will be able to track that ... Anyone with a New York state official prescription will be in that system. It’s about accountability.”
Williams said that Spring Creek Pharmacy has already been required to submit its records to the Drug Enforcement Agency every 30 days, but added that this process will allow that information to be available instantaneously.
“There will be a heightened sense of monitoring, beyond the store level,” said Williams. “Pharmacists are going to have both less and more control. We will have a larger knowledge base of these prescriptions. We will be able to track where these prescriptions are coming from and who they are going to. The person who does doctor shopping, who is getting the same drugs from five or six different doctors, they are going to have a harder time doing that,” he explained.
“Pharmacists will have more knowledge about what people are doing, who they are seeing and where they are getting their prescriptions filled. There will be more interlocking, so we can know right away, or a higher entity will know and can step in.”
As a result, Williams said that he expected doctors to be less likely to prescribe those types of medications and that pharmacists will also be less inclined to fill them.
“A lot of people are not going to like it, but I’m in this business for a number of reasons and one of those is to make money. If we ... have to do all this investigating, that’s me losing money and losing time,” Williams said. “It would be much easier if we could just fill them, but this process is going to escalate.”
While Williams said he has heard “rumors about [narcotic painkiller] abuse,” he said he treats all of his customers “with respect until they prove me wrong.
I want to provide the medications to those who are legitimate. I also want to be able to tell who’s legit and who’s not,” he said. “I’m always that guy who gives someone a second, third [and] fourth chance. I believe in people.”
While the suspect in the Spring Creek Pharmacy robbery had not been apprehended as of press time, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office is still seeking information about the suspect.
“The police believe that this individual is not someone who is 15 years old,” Williams noted. “They have gotten into trouble before. This was drug-motivated. The Erie County detectives have been very good.”
Anyone with information about the robbery can contact Detective Greg McCarthy at 667-5224, Detective Jack Graham at 667-5282 or the sheriff’s dispatch at 858-2903.