Suffolk County Grand Jury Addresses Prescription Painkiller Abuse
HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Suffolk County grand jury has released a detailed report after looking into the growing abuse of prescription painkillers on Long Island and elsewhere.
The panel has offered several solutions and recommendations to address the epidemic after hearing testimony from 38 witnesses and considering 123 exhibits.
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The 99-page report suggests mandatory blood tests for any driver involved in a car accident that kills or injures another person. If approved, police would be allowed to do this without obtaining a search warrant.
The report also urges mandatory electronic filing of prescriptions on controlled substances, which would prevent forgeries of prescriptions currently written on paper. It also calls for the pharmaceutical industry to contribute to a research fund for addiction and evaluation, as well as fund changes to the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
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“The genesis of the current prescription pill and heroin epidemic lies squarely at the feet of the medical establishment — the practitioners, the prescribers, the pharmaceutical companies,” District Attorney Thomas Spota said.
Spota added that the panel concluded the source of the crisis begins with physicians and suggested doctors who operate pill mills face felony charges, not misdemeanors.
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The report comes just weeks before the first anniversary of a pharmacy massacre in Medford in which a gunman seeking painkillers murdered four people.
David Laffer, an admitted drug addict, pleaded guilty to murdering two employees and two customers on Father’s Day before fleeing with a backpack jammed with painkillers. He is serving consecutive life prison terms. His wife, Melinda Brady, who also admitted abusing painkillers, drove the getaway car. She is serving a 25-year sentence after pleading guilty to robbery charges.
The shooting was the first of two fatal pharmacy holdups on Long Island last year. On New Year’s Eve, a federal agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was killed when he tried to intervene in a pharmacy robbery in Seaford.
The agent was killed by a retired police officer in a suspected “friendly fire” shooting, although police have yet to discuss the exact circumstances surrounding that shooting. An investigation by the Nassau County district attorney is ongoing.
Since the shootings, several doctors in the New York area have been arrested on charges of improperly prescribing painkillers to patients in a practice Laffer described at his sentencing as “doctor shopping.” That’s where addicts learn of physicians willing to dole out prescriptions for painkillers with few or no questions asked.
Last year on Long Island there were some 365 overdose deaths, the victims of which were mostly young men aged 18-23.
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