Doctors are now required to check a statewide database of prescriptions before issuing any of their own under a new state law that took effect Tuesday.
Starting Tuesday, doctors will have to check their patients’ drug histories in a state database before they can prescribe narcotic painkillers and other powerful medications. The new requirement is meant to curb abuse, but its side effects worry some physicians.
The new responsibility for doctors is part of the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP, a state law introduced by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and passed last year.
The system is supposed to help doctors and pharmacists spot signs of dependency among patients and stop people from “doctor shopping” — collecting prescriptions from multiple physicians to feed an addiction or sell pills on the street.
Several Rochester-area physicians agreed more has to be done to curb opiate abuse, a problem that has mushroomed in New York and beyond in recent years and also may be fueling a local rise in heroin-related deaths and crime. Yet they worry that running drug history checks on many of their patients will become a burden on their time, especially for already overworked primary care doctors.
“Some restriction is necessary, but to impose it broadly for every physician in New York state is going to be a huge imposition,” said Dr. James Fetten, who works at Interlakes Oncology and Hematology in Rochester and is president of the Monroe County Medical Society.
Doctors also are concerned that the online system will run slowly or crash, causing delays or discouraging their colleagues from prescribing narcotics altogether to avoid the hassle, even if patients legitimately need them.