New York City’s 11 public hospitals will be restricting use of some of the most popular and strongest prescription painkillers available on the market in emergency rooms said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The city wants to make a bigger effort to crack down on the prescription drug use epidemic that has been increasingly becoming a problem. With the city’s new policy in place patients in public hospitals will not be able to receive any more than a three day supply of narcotic painkillers such as Percocet and Vicodin. Painkillers with lasting affects like OxyContin which is a common painkiller for arthritis and backaches will not be distributed at all. In addition, any painkiller prescriptions that are stolen, destroyed or lost will not be replaced.
City officials say the goal of the policy is to reduce the rapidly growing dependence upon painkillers and preventing large amounts of narcotics from being stolen from medicine cabinets and pumped into the streets and abused by teens and other people who want to get their fix. Mr. Bloomberg recently stated that abuse of prescription painkillers has increased at an alarming rate when he announced the new policy at Elmhurst Hospital Center. More than 250,000 New Yorkers above 12 years of age abuse prescription painkillers which has resulted in rising hospital admissions for deaths and overdose. Doctors engaging in acts of Medicare fraud who falsify prescriptions and pharmacy robberies in neighborhoods have also risen, leading to more violent crime.
However, many critics argue that low income patients who are uninsured use emergency rooms as their main source of medical care regularly. Implying that the restrictions in the policy may have negative impacts on doctors in the public hospital sector whose goal is to help poor people get treatment by depriving them of the flexibility they need to properly respond to medical situations. “It prevents me from being a professional and using my judgment,” said Dr. Alex Rosenau, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians and senior vice chairman of emergency medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network.
Cancer patients who need prescription painkillers for cancer pain would be excluded from the policy according to city health officials and the drugs will still be available even when outside of the emergency room. Over 2,000,000 opioid painkiller prescriptions are written every year in New York City. Each year in the city painkillers have been involved in nearly 170 accidental deaths from overdose.
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