A new audit of the state Health Department’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement found that there were poor controls over unused prescription forms, significant variations in drug investigation practices across the state, and hundreds of thousands of prescriptions that may have been abused. The bureau is in charge of combating illegal use and trafficking of controlled substances in New York.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement strengthened its processes for combatting abuse of prescriptions for controlled substances during the audit by his office.
Auditors examined 28.5 million prescriptions dispensed over a 15-month period. Of those, more than 325,000 prescriptions for controlled substances, filled more than 565,000 times, had errors or inconsistencies in critical information. Nearly half the drugs obtained with the prescriptions were for Zolpidem (Ambien), Oxycodone (a pain medication often marketed as OxyContin) and Hydrocodone (a pain medication sometimes marketed as Vicodin).
“The abuse of prescription medications has reached epidemic proportions and the costs to society are enormous,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “I commend Governor (Andrew) Cuomo and his team for introducing legislation and making leadership changes that are moving the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement in a positive direction. The bureau needs to aggressively pursue new ways to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute illegal prescription activities.”
Problems included prescriptions in 135 instances that were written by practitioners with licenses that had been revoked, suspended or surrendered; and refills of more than 90,000 prescriptions more than 157,000 times beyond what had been authorized. More than 4,000 returned prescription forms maintained by a state Health Department contractor supposedly had been destroyed, but they were documented in the bureau’s records as having been used to obtain controlled substances.
The audit recommends that Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement increase the sophistication of its analytical techniques to track down possible cases of drug diversion; use a consistent and coordinated approach to pursue crimes across the state; and secure and account for unused prescription forms.
According to Health Department officials, data entry errors are likely responsible for many of the questionable prescriptions. The bureau has identified what it believes are the likely causes of roughly 50,000 discrepancies.
Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement audit