Powerful prescription refills to be restricted

By Lorne Fultonberg

February 20, 2013 Updated Feb 21, 2013 at 2:15 AM EDT

Binghamton (WBNG Binghamton) A new state law is cracking down on hydrocodone and oripavine in an attempt to fight prescription drug addiction.

Portions of the Internet System for Tracking Over Prescribing Act -- or iSTOP -- take effect Saturday. The law will restrict access to Vicodin, Lortab and other painkillers that are stronger than over-the-counter drugs.

"There's a high potential of abuse for hydrocodone and basically they're trying to make tighter control on it so the people aren't going out in the streets and selling it and trading it for more potent medications," said Karen Conn, managing pharmacist, at The Medicine Shoppe in Binghamton.

Currently, hydrocodone prescriptions can be refilled as many as five times. On Saturday, though, a refill will require a new prescription.

Hydrocodone and oripavine are being upgraded to Schedule II drugs, meaning they have a high potential for addiction and abuse.

"It's a huge problem," Conn said. "It's falling into our kids' hands. There are so many hydrocodone tablets being dispensed and out there in the streets and I think this is the first step toward really making the difference."

Craig Burridge, executive director of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, says many doctors over-prescribe the drugs, often giving a month's worth of painkillers when only a week's worth may be needed. He also says most people don't understand how strong the drugs are.

Those using the drugs for chronic pain are the exception to the rule. They will be granted 90-day prescriptions, before needing a renewal, Burridge said.

Some call that a major inconvenience, but Conn says it's an inconvenience that's worth it.

"For some people this will be a real hindrance to them getting in control of their medications," she said. "But to be safe for everybody, it's something the governor feels we need to do."

Other aspects of the law include upgrading Tramadol to a Schedule IV drug, putting a limit on its prescription quantity and increasing access to drug abuse databases and purchasing history for pharmacists.

The iSTOP Act will continue to be rolled out through Aug. 27.

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