01.13.19

SCHUMER REVEALS: GOVT SHUTDOWN PREVENTING NYC/LI DOCTORS FROM PRESCRIBING CRITICAL ANTI-OPIOID DRUG NEEDED BY MANY ON PATH TO RECOVERY; DOCTORS CANNOT PROVIDE LIFE-SAVING DRUG WITHOUT DEA APPROVAL—AND FEDS ARE UNREACHABLE; SENATOR URGES UNLOCKING OF CRITICAL MEDS TO SAVE LIVES ON THE LINE

Ramifications Of Needless Fed Shutdown Now Threaten To Upend How NYC/LI Fight The Opioid War, Stem Tide Of Local Addiction & Save Lives

Buprenorphine Is A Daily Medication Used To Treat Opioid Addiction That A Provider Needs Special Fed Approval & Training To Prescribe

Schumer: Every Minute Someone In NYC or LI Needs This Drug --And Can’t Get It-- Risks Tragic Results   

Pointing to a needless government shutdown, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer revealed, today, that New York City and Long Island doctors—in the midst of battling the opioid war—are being prevented from prescribing a critical and life-saving anti-opioid drug called Buprenorphine (also known as Suboxone) that is needed and prescribed as part of recovery and treatment from addiction. 

“One of New York’s best arrows in the quiver to beat back the opioid scourge and save so many lives is a drug called Buprenorphine, and right now its access is under serious threat if critical federal agencies like the DEA continue to remain shut down for no good reason,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

Schumer, today, warned that until the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is back up and fully functioning, the local opioid war will, in part, grind to a potentially dangerous halt --and the effects could be deadly. He revealed that across New York, there is worrisome evidence that with the DEA shutdown, the highly-regulated process providers must go through in order to prescribe medication assisted therapy (MAT) drugs like Buprenorphine could grind to a complete halt should the shutdown sustain.

“Simply put, the DEA, in many ways, holds the keys to accessing critical anti-opioid treatment drugs that New York City and Long Island patients and doctors need to combat this deadly scourge. And so we need them fully open and running to put those keys back into the hands of the New York doctors who save lives and the patients who are fighting to get better,” added Schumer.

According to the New York City Department of Health, continuing this shutdown would make matters even worse and “adversely affect patient access to treatment and New York City providers’ ability to effectively respond to the overdose epidemic.”

“Just as we are starting to gain some ground in fighting this historic crisis, federal agencies on the frontlines, including DEA, have been shuttered, potentially putting patients, their families and entire communities at risk. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) saves lives and additional barriers to care in the midst of a public health crisis are simply unconscionable. While this shutdown will effect access to care in every area of the state, the impact will be most significant in suburban areas like Long Island and rural areas where there are already a small number of prescribers struggling to serve a huge population,” said Jeff Reynolds of Family and Children’s Association, which serves people across Long Island.

“Ensuring doctors can prescribe buprenorphine is perhaps the single most important action we can take to prevent opioid overdoses.  Many of us have worked tirelessly on Long Island to do exactly that. A delay or setback in those efforts will make it harder for opioid users to access life-saving treatment,” said Rev. Gideon Pollach, Co-Chairperson of Long Island Congregations, Associations & Neighborhoods.

Schumer said New York City and Long Island prescribers who help combat the opioid scourge on the treatment side require correspondence with the DEA to dispense the anti-opioid drug to both new providers and additional patients. With the shutdown underway and continuing, the ability to prescribe Buprenorphine is greatly hampered and the DEA now unreachable to address the concerns.

To prescribe buprenorphine, physicians must go through a process with both SAMHSA and the DEA. SAMHSA provides the training and certification needed to prescribe the drug, and DEA registers the physician as someone authorized to dispense controlled substances. The physician’s DEA identification and registration numbers must appear on every buprenorphine prescription they write. When a physician is first approved to prescribe buprenorphine, they may only treat 30 patients at a time. After a year, they can submit a request to treat up to 100 patients at a time, which requires going through a second application process. One year later, physicians can now apply to increase patient limits to 275 at one time if they have such high patient demand that such an increase is needed. New York physicians and medical centers are reporting that they are unable to contact the DEA to verify and update their registration, and this is preventing them from completing the application to increase their patient load.

Buprenorphine is an opioid medication used to treat opioid addiction and is prescribed by physicians, nurse practitioners or physician assistants to patients for at-home treatment, according to the National Alliance of Advocated for Buprenorphine Treatment (NAABT). The drug is an ideal treatment tool to wean an individual off prescription or other addiction. And according to the NAABT, buprenorphine helps suppress symptoms of opioid withdrawal, decrease cravings for opioids, reduce illicit opioid use, block the effects of other opioids, and help patients stay in treatment.

Buprenorphine is one of the active ingredients used in Suboxone, a prescription medicine used to treat adults who are dependent on opioids. Moreover, Suboxone is one of the prescription medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid addiction. 

Schumer pointed out that amidst this shutdown and DEA lock-out, the New York City and Long Island opioid war rages on, which is why this issue is so critical to remedy. Schumer says the Administration should immediately open up the agencies of the federal government, like the DEA, that have nothing to do with any funding for a wall.

According to the latest NYC Department of Health data, there were 1,374 unintentional drug overdose deaths in New York City in 2016, compared to 937 unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2015—an increase of 437. Approximately four fatal drug overdoses occurred each day in New York City in 2016. More than eight in ten overdose deaths involved an opioid and heroin was involved in 751 (55 percent) fatal overdoses in New York City in 2016. Fentanyl was involved in 44 percent of all fatal overdoses in 2016. 

In July, more than 46 pounds of heroin was seized in a single raid in the Bronx. The heroin and fentanyl seized from the raid was worth $7.5 million. In June, 22 pounds of heroin, worth $3 million, were seized after a car driving through Upper Manhattan was stopped.

The heroin epidemic has also hit Long Island especially hard. According to the New York State Department of Health, in 2015 there were 172 opioid overdose deaths in Nassau County, including 71 related to heroin; 213 opioid overdose deaths in Suffolk County, including 137 related to heroin.

According to the New York Daily News, Nassau and Suffolk Counties reported 493 opioid overdoses in 2016. Earlier this month, during the week of June 3rd, Suffolk County reported 22 overdoses over a two day span, including one that was fatal. Overall, the number of fatalities could have been even worse if not for the life-saving antidote naloxone.

Schumer pointed to a handful of 2018 drug busts in the New York-metro area as examples of continued diligence in this fight: 

  • In September, 14 alleged heroin dealers from two loosely-connected groups were arrested in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. 7,000 envelopes of heroin were found at the scene. The drug ring had expanded their operations into Upper Manhattan. 
  • In September, 25 people in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx were arrested for being involved in a heroin packaging operation, involving $2 million worth of heroin; a Manhattan doctor illegally prescribed over 14,000 oxycodone prescriptions; and four people were arrested for possessing and trying to sell fentanyl on Long Island.
  • In May, an alleged Brooklyn heroin distribution ringleader was arrested after reportedly circulating around 2 million glassines of heroin.
  • In March, thirty-four people in Brooklyn were charged with distributing drugs. The drugs were sold throughout the five boroughs. More than 103 pounds of heroin and fentanyl, worth $22 million, were seized.‎
  • In February, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office (EDNY), nine individuals were charged with conspiring to distribute heroin and/or oxycodone in Staten Island.

###



Previous Article Next Article