Legislation Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Marlene Caride, John McKeon, Vince Mazzeo and Raj Mukherji sponsored to combat the rising tide of heroin and prescription drug abuse throughout New Jersey has been signed into law
The new law (S-1998/A-3062) stems from the State Commission of Investigation’s July 2013 report entitled “Scenes from an Epidemic: A Report on the SCI’s Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.” The report included testimony from law enforcement officials, drug addicts, members of street gangs and physicians who operated so-called pill mills, where prescription drugs could be obtained under the guise of seemingly legitimate medical practices. The mills often have ties to organized crime, the report stated.
The measure revises various statutory provisions related to the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which was established in the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety under a 2007 law. The PMP is an electronic system for monitoring controlled dangerous substances dispensed in or into the State in outpatient settings.
“This problem is wide-ranging and our laws are not stringent enough to combat it,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We need to do more to ensure we’re equipped to deal with this epidemic, before too many lives are lost. This is both the moral and responsible thing to do.”
“These recommendations expand on current law in several areas to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to combat illicit drug distribution and drug use, increase civil penalties related to prescription drug abuse and impose stronger controls over access to prescription drugs,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “No one and no place in New Jersey is immune to the increasing concern over this abuse, whether it be a city or a suburb, and we need to do more to stem this tide or we risk our state’s future. These common sense ideas should go a long way toward combating this scourge.”
“This epidemic is, in many cases, flagrant and destructive to our future as a state,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “We’re losing too many people to addiction and illegal activity, and we cannot sit idle and watch it continue without giving law enforcement the tools they need to combat it and provide help to those in need. This law makes clear that we will not sit back and allow this epidemic to continue.”
“This unbridled epidemic has tainted medical professionals, created scores of addicts and even attracted the tentacles of organized crime,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “The illegal trafficking in and abuse of prescription painkillers and other addictive narcotics is a threat to our well-being as a state, and these thoughtful recommendations should be a major step toward overcoming it. Too many futures have already been lost.”
“We need to make common sense changes to our laws to combat this scourge,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “This law is a long-awaited step in the right direction toward saving lives.”
Currently, the NJPMP contains data on more than 48.4 million prescriptions for CDS and human growth hormone. It has responded to more than 4 million data requests from licensed prescribers and pharmacists, including more than 180,000 requests made during the last 30 days alone.
The new law expands New Jersey healthcare professionals’ access to the NJPMP by, among other things, requiring that prescribers and pharmacists register for NJPMP access, and requiring that physicians consult the NJPMP under limited circumstances.
For example, the law mandates that physicians consult the online NJPMP database the first time they prescribe a drug classified as a Schedule II CDS (such as oxycodone) to a patient for acute and chronic pain. They also must continue to consult the NJPMP at least quarterly thereafter for patients that continue to receive such medications. In addition, pharmacists would be required to check the database prior to dispensing a Schedule II CDS if there is a reasonable belief that the patient may be seeking the prescription for any reason other than the treatment of a medical condition.
In addition, pharmacists are required to submit identifying information for any individual who picks up a prescription for a patient. It further requires pharmacies to submit information to the NJPMP every seven days, rather than every 30 days as provided in current law. The Division of Consumer Affairs has notified pharmacies that, as of September 1, 2015, it will require them to report information to the NJPMP on a daily basis, no more than one business day after the date the CDS was dispensed.