Draconian restrictions on prescription painkillers in NYC public ERs

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In an attempt to crack down on what Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg calls a citywide and national epidemic of prescription drug abuse, prescription painkillers will be restricted in the emergency rooms of New York City s 11 public hospitals. Under this new policy, public hospital patients will not be able to get more than three days worth of narcotic painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet. And painkillers such as OxyContin, Fentanyl patches and methadone will no longer be available.

Abuse of prescription painkillers in our city has increased alarmingly, the mayor says. He adds that over 250,000 New Yorkers over the age of 12 are abusing prescription painkillers, which ultimately leads to rising hospital admissions for overdoses and deaths, Medicare fraud by doctors who write false prescriptions and violent crime like holdups at neighborhood pharmacies.

But critics say that doctors will be losing a tool to treat patients, particularly poor and uninsured patients who often use ERs for primary medical care and might genuinely need more than three days worth of painkillers. Dr. Alex Rosenau, president-elect of the American College of Emergency Physicians and senior vice chairman of emergency medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Eastern Pennsylvania, calls the rule an attempt at legislative medicine. It prevents me from being a professional and using my judgment.

This is an excellent example of why politicians and administrators should not make medical decisions, adds ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross. The focus on drug abusers will have the twin consequences of depriving poor patients who need pain medication from getting it, and will force many to return frequently to the ER to get yet another 3 days worth of pain relievers.

And ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom points out the obvious: Bloomberg is getting so overbearing and controlling that there seems to be nothing he doesn t want to regulate.
Dr. Bloom has sardonically criticized the Mayor s nanny policies in his op-ed titled Welcome to the Dumb Apple.