Chronic Pain — 11 January 2013

bigstock-Praying-In-Hospital-2139827By Pat Anson, Editor

New York City’s public hospitals are adopting new restrictions on prescription painkillers that could make it much harder for pain patients to get access to opioid analgesics.

Under the city’s guidelines, emergency rooms in public hospitals will only prescribe a three-day supply of widely used painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet. Long-acting painkillers such as methadone and Oxycontin will not be dispensed at all, and the hospitals won’t refill lost or stolen prescriptions.

The move is aimed at curbing what Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls a citywide “epidemic” of prescription drug abuse. Over a quarter of a million New Yorkers over age 12 are abusing prescription painkillers.

“Abuse of prescription painkillers in our city has increased alarmingly in recent years,” said Bloomberg. “We talk about other problems, we talk about narcotics but this is one of the things growing much more rapidly.”

The guidelines are contained in a report from the Mayor’s Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse. They will be used in all eleven of New York’s public hospitals.

“For treatment of acute pain, these guidelines recommend prescribing no more than a 3-day supply (in most cases), and for chronic non-cancer pain, providers are advised to avoid prescribing painkillers unless other treatments have been demonstrated to be ineffective,” the report says.

Limits on opioids will not apply to patients who need prescription drugs for cancer pain or palliative care.

More than two million prescriptions for opioid painkillers are written in New York City annually, according to Dr. Robert Farley, the city’s health commissioner. About 40,000 New Yorkers are addicted to painkillers.

The city lacks the regulatory authority to impose the new guidelines on private hospitals. But several private hospitals have said they would adopt them voluntarily.

Patients with primary care doctors will still be able to get longer 30-day prescriptions for painkillers after leaving the hospital. But critics say many poor and uninsured patients won’t have that option. Poor patients often use emergency room as their primary source of medical care.

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About Author

Pat Anson, Editor

Pat is Editor in Chief of American News Report. He is a veteran journalist and a former correspondent and producer for HealthWeek (PBS), Nightly Business Report (PBS) and other nationally syndicated shows. Pat has won numerous journalism awards, including a Golden Mike award for investigative reporting.

(4) Readers Comments

  1. Jennifer this is not a result of governmental health care. This is another war on drugs so to speak, if we had government run health care then everyone would have access to the general doctors rather then having to go to the er because they can not afford health care.

    The issue is that everyone deserves the right to get basic health care, it shouldn’t be a privilege to have the ability to see a primary care doctor. I know that I wouldn’t be so bad if I had been able to see a doctor sooner.

  2. All I can say is, thank goodness I dont live in NYC. How ignorant can a government be to think that they have the medical expertise to make such a decision? There is no doubt that there is a problem with prescription abuse WORLDWIDE, but the answer is NOT to label every person requiring opioids (aside from cancer patients) as substance abusers and therefor cut off their access to opioid prescriptions!!!
    I am a 42 year old woman, whom 8 years ago was unlucky enough to suffer from a back injury. As a result, I am disabled from Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome…something that impacts my life every minute, every hour of every day. The only reason that I can get up each morning to try to fulfill my life as a daughter, a wife and as a mother, is because I take a whole regime of pain medications, INCLUDING OPIOIDS!! Do I like the fact that I am taking opioid medication? NO!!! But if by taking them, it means that I can participate in life, then thats what Im going to do.
    It is clear to me, that the people that make such decisions as the ones NYC have made, have never felt chronic pain a day in their lives. Maybe they should volunteer themselves to do just that….suffer chronic pain for one day of the lives. I could guarantee that their approach to prescription availability would quickly change!

  3. Is that not the way it usually goes? The poor without regular doctors are the ones to suffer.The people who can least afford to get to a hospital every 3 days to get medication when they are in pain. This is just shameful

  4. Well this is the beginning of goverment controlling our health care. As a healthcare professional I find te appalling that someone without medical training has the right to say who can and cannot have prescription pain medications. It is going to make chronic pain suffers, suffer more because of lack of medical treatment