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No more paper scripts: Doctors required to send prescriptions electronically to pharmacies starting next week

Paper prescriptions will soon be a thing of the past.

Doctors in New York State will be required to write all prescriptions electronically and transmit them directly to the pharmacy under a new law that takes effect this Sunday, March 27.

The law is intended to cut down the number of fraudulent and stolen prescriptions, which will in turn combat prescription drug abuse, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Addiction can affect anyone from any walk of life and this administration will continue to use every tool it can to combat this epidemic and provide help to those in need,” Cuomo said in a press release last week.

It’s the latest in a series of prescription reforms from the state’s I-STOP initiative, legislation that aims to curb over-prescribing and abuse of pain medications and other controlled substances.

Electronic prescriptions have been required for controlled substances since 2014, but they will now be required for all prescriptions. Prescriptions will also need to be transmitted directly to the pharmacy, rather than through the patient.

“It should reduce fraud and theft of prescription pads from doctors’ offices,” said Felicia Scocozza, director of Riverhead CAP, a local drug prevention group. “I think it’s a great idea.”

As overdoses continue to increase across the state (nearly 500 overdose reversals were reported in Suffolk County last year, in addition to more than 300 overdose deaths), lawmakers have been scrambling to find ways to fight the growing epidemic.

Though heroin is responsible for most of the overdose deaths reported in the county last year, many heroin users were first addicted to prescription pain medications before they began using heroin. About half of young heroin users reported abusing prescription opioids before they tried heroin, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Prescription medications like Oxycotin and Vicodin are highly addictive and can produce a high that is similar to heroin, which is available much more cheaply on the street than prescription drugs. Some heroin users say they switched to heroin because it is less expensive and easier to get than prescription pain medications.

So lawmakers are trying to reduce the number of people who have access to prescription pain drugs, hoping it will eventually lead to less people becoming addicted to heroin.

One of I-STOP’s first initiatives was an online monitoring program that requires doctors to consult a patient’s controlled substance prescription history before prescribing them additional controlled substances, which went into effect in August 2013.

And starting next week, doctors will no longer be allowed to write any prescriptions by hand, except in exceptional circumstances like natural disasters or electrical failures. Scocozza said that getting paper prescription pads out of the office will likely cut down on fraudulent scripts and prescription theft.

“Instances of people changing the prescription on the pad – changing the name of the medication, or the amount being prescribed – would basically be eliminated,” she said. “It seems like it would really reduce the amount of prescription drugs out there that are not being taken as they were prescribed to be.”

Many local doctors have already been writing their prescriptions electronically for years, said Bobby Gunjupali, owner of Barth’s Drug Store in Riverhead.

“It’s very convenient,” Gunjupali said today. “By the time the customers come into the store, the scripts are ready.”

Southold Pharmacy owner Paulette Ofrias said the new requirement would probably have a “learning curve” for some local residents.

“We have a very high elderly population out here on the North Fork,” Ofrias said. “If they don’t leave the doctor’s office with a prescription in their hand, they might be confused.”

Both pharmacies are prepared for the switch and have been accepting prescriptions electronically for a long time.

“It really is more efficient,” Ofrias said.

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Katie Blasl

Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a reporter, editor and web developer for the LOCAL news websites. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie