NYC Seeks to Curb Painkiller Abuse With Hospital Limits

New York City is seeking to curb abuse of potentially addictive and deadly painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin with new limits on how widely the drugs should be prescribed.

Emergency departments at New York’s public hospitals will only prescribe a three-day supply of opioid painkillers, won’t refill lost or stolen prescriptions and shouldn’t prescribe long-acting versions of the drugs, according to voluntary guidelines the city issued today.

The move is aimed at reducing abuse and overdoses, the city said. The number of emergency room visits in New York related to painkillers almost tripled in 2010 from 2004 to 143 visits for every 100,000 people, the city said. The use of painkillers without a medical need in the U.S. increased 75 percent in 2010 from 2002, the Archives of Internal Medicine reported. More than 15,500 people overdosed on the pills and died in 2009, more than double since 2002, the study found.

“Abuse of prescription painkillers in our city has increased alarmingly in recent years,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said. “We talk about other problems, we talk about narcotics but this is one of the things growing much more rapidly.” The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Prescriptions for opioid painkillers filled by New Yorkers increased 22 percent over two years to 2 million in 2010 with prescriptions for Oxycodone increasing by about 50 percent, the city said in a May report. About 50 percent of prescriptions were written by just 14 percent of doctors, nurses and dentists.

Today’s guidelines are part of a report from the Mayor’s Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse and will be used in all of New York’s public hospitals, such as Bellevue Hospital Center and Harlem Hospital Center in Manhattan.

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