A pharmacist who moved his work behind bullet-proof glass and installed a security guard after four people were gunned down by a drug thief at a nearby pharmacy said Monday that lawmakers need to do more to address the problem of prescription painkiller addictions.
Long Island pharmacist Jordan Fogel was joined Monday by ex-addicts and others lobbying for pending legislation. He once rejected a prescription for 720 oxycodone pills from a doctor whose license has since been revoked and frequently calls doctors to verify scrips, he said.
"Basically it's a judgment call every day to decide if this prescription is written for legitimate purposes or if it's not," Fogel said. He spends about 30 percent of his time doing that, and he needs the proposed state system for immediate online review and reporting of prescriptions by doctors and pharmacists, he said.
The system is intended to deter drug seekers from shopping among doctors to get prescriptions refilled and raise red flags on doctors who prescribe large quantities of hydrocodone and other addictive painkillers and patients getting them without legitimate medical reasons.
Jenna Montalbano, a 22-year-old self-described recovering addict and alcoholic for the past 15 months, said that when she was seeking drugs, no doctors said no. "All I had to do was ask for more," she said. The Queens native said her problem started with one Vicodin prescription, and she ended up weighing 87 pounds with kidney failure.
In one of the most shocking crimes stemming from prescription painkiller addictions, a robber walked into a Long Island drugstore in June 2011 and gunned down the pharmacist, a teenage store clerk and two customers before leaving with a backpack full of pills containing hydrocodone. David Laffer was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the crimes.
Doctors have lobbied against provisions they see as time-consuming and burdensome.
Dr. Robert Hughes, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, said they have been working with the health department to improve its drug-monitoring program and database. "The Medical Society is very concerned that an across-the-board duty to consult the database in all instances is so onerous that physicians and other prescribers will modify their prescribing practices, causing real access problems for patients," he said.
Their concern is that some patients will not get needed pain medications.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he is "cautiously optimistic" negotiations between his office and lawmakers will result in final legislation before the session ends this month.
"I understand the abuse. I also understand you're talking about a person's right to a prescription. And you're talking about privacy," Cuomo said. "And you don't want to impede a person's ability for expeditious prescriptions. So the harm is very real, and the danger is real. Sometimes if you're not careful, the cure can be worse than the illness. And that's what we're trying to calibrate."