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2008 Program could be Funded with Federal Grant; Help Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse like ‘Operation Oxymoron’ Oxycodone Bust in Nutley

(TRENTON) — Senator Paul A. Sarlo and Assemblyman Fred Scalera Monday urged the implementation of a 2008 law that would create a prescription monitoring program that would help prevent illegal prescription drug trafficking before a $350,000 federal grant tied to its creation expires.

The need for implementing the stalled program was called into stark relief recently, when 19 individuals, including two from Nutley, were arrested as part of “Operation Oxymoron,” a sting that broke up a statewide prescription oxycodone ring. Police estimated that between 5,000 to 8,000 pills a week were trafficked through Nutley.

“It’s frustrating that, more than two years later, the law to create a prescription monitoring program in New Jersey sits on a shelf collecting dust because the Executive Branch could not or did not implement the necessary policies to carry out the law,” said Sarlo (D-Bergen). “This is why our constituents lose faith in government and the bureaucracy it creates.”

“Six people died because we didn’t know that a pharmacy was issuing 600 times the statewide annual average of oxycodone prescribed,” said Scalera (D-Essex). “If we had the monitoring program in place — a program that’s been on the books since January 2008 — we might have known something was wrong early enough to save lives.”

The 2008 law requires pharmacists to electronically transmit information on any prescriptions for controlled dangerous substances, such as oxycodone, that they fill to the state Division of Consumer Affairs. The information transmitted would include:

  • The customer’s name and address;
  • The method and source of payment;
  • The prescribing doctor’s name, address and professional identifying information; and

  • Information about the prescription.

“This is a problem that is endemic of Trenton: we implement some really good programs and then don’t act on them,” said Scalera. “The funding to do this is there now, but it won’t be there forever. If we don’t act by April 2011, then we lose out on implementing another state program that can help save lives.”

“We have to do more to ensure that programs required by law are implemented in a timely manner,” said Sarlo. “The goal of this program is to save lives and, if we miss this April deadline, we will likely lose the opportunity to do just that.”