Questions and Answers for Practitioners Regarding the New Official Prescription Program

Q. What new law has recently been passed that affects how practitioners write prescriptions for their patients?

A. A new Section 21 of the Public Health Law requires that by April 19, 2006, all prescriptions (both for controlled substances and non-controlled substances) written in New York State be issued on an official New York State prescription form, the same form that was previously required for prescribing Schedule II and Benzodiazepine controlled substances.

Q. What is the purpose of the new law?

A. The new law will combat the growing problem of prescription fraud. Official prescriptions contain security features specifically designed to prevent alterations and forgeries that divert drugs for sale on the black market. Some of these contaminated drugs end up in patients' medicine cabinets. By preventing fraudulent claims, the law will also save New York's Medicaid program and private insurers many millions of dollars every year.

Q. Does the law change the way practitioners issue prescriptions?

A. It is important to note that the law makes no changes in the way practitioners issue prescriptions. Practitioners will still prescribe for their patients in the same manner. Only the prescription form itself will change.

Q. Does the law change the way patients get their prescriptions filled?

A. No. Pharmacies will still fill prescriptions and maintain prescription records for patients as they always have.

Q. When does the new law go into effect?

A. It is important to note that an official prescription continues to be required for prescribing schedule II and benzodiazepine controlled substances. To give the medical community adequate time to convert to the new forms, there will be an 18 month transition period in which both an official prescription or a practitioner's current prescription blank may be used to prescribe all other medications. After April 19, 2006, all written prescriptions must be issued on the Official Prescription form.

Q. How will practitioners obtain their official prescriptions for prescribing?

A. A practitioner must first register with the Department of Health. The Department will provide official prescriptions to registered practitioners free of charge. Practitioners will be issued individualized official prescriptions preprinted with their practice information. In the near future, the forms will also be issued to group practices and to hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities for use by staff practitioners.

Q. What procedure must practitioners follow to register to receive their official prescriptions

A. In phases, all practitioners will be mailed informational materials and an application for registration, which also will be issued without fee. You are urged to complete and submit the application promptly. Once registered, you will be given specific details on how to easily order official prescriptions by mail, telephone, or internet. They will be mailed to an appropriate address listed on your registration.By April 19, 2006, all practitioners must be registered to receive official prescriptions.

Q. Are practitioners who currently purchase official prescriptions by mail for prescribing schedule II and benzodiazepine controlled substances also required to register?

A. Yes. These practitioners will be the first to be sent applications for registration. Once these practitioners have registered, they will be provided their prescriptions free of charge.

Q. What is the best way for registered practitioners to order official prescriptions?

A. The Department is in the process of developing a secure Internet web site for this purpose. It will be the fastest and easiest way to order official prescriptions. Once the site has been developed you will receive a notification on how to establish a Health Provider Network account and place your order. Ordering over the Internet will offer the convenience of imprinting official prescriptions with multiple practice addresses and the names of practitioners in group practices. It will also allow a practitioner to designate an alternate who is authorized to order official prescriptions on his or her behalf.

Q. How must official prescriptions be secured?

A. Practitioners should safeguard their official prescriptions against loss, theft, or unauthorized use. It is important to note that official prescriptions issued to group practices or multiple offices are not required to be stored in a central location. Practitioners may store and use the prescriptions issued to them at any location where they practice.

Q. Are practitioners licensed in other states required to prescribe on an official prescription for their patients living in New York?

A. No. Out-of-state practitioners may prescribe on their own personal prescription blank. If the prescriptions contain all information required by law, New York pharmacies will be allowed to fill them in the same manner as official prescriptions.

Q. Is electronic prescribing still allowed under the new law?

A. Yes. A practitioner may still transmit a prescription for a non-controlled medication to a pharmacy by secure electronic means. Electronic prescribing of controlled substances is not yet permissible and will be contingent upon federal and New York State regulations. The new law encourages practitioners to convert to electronic prescribing, which reduces medication errors and does not require the use of an official prescription. For medical practices that utilize an electronic medical records system to generate prescriptions in their offices, the Department has future plans to provide official prescriptions forms designed for computer printers.

Q. Will the Department of Health collect data from official prescriptions?

A. The new law requires pharmacies to submit data only from prescriptions dispensed for all controlled substances. The Department will monitor this data to protect practitioners from drug seekers.

Q. How will the monitoring of official prescription data protect practitioners from drug seekers?

A. The new law allows the Department to notify practitioners when analyses of official prescription data indicate that their patients are obtaining controlled substances from multiple sources, an illegal and dangerous activity known as 'doctor shopping'. <"Doctor Shopper" programs in other states enjoy overwhelming support from their medical communities and have reduced this drug-seeking activity by as much as 65 percent

Q. Whom can practitioners contact with questions about the new law and official prescriptions?

A. A Help Desk is readily available at 1-866-811-7957 to answer your questions and provide information about how to register and order your official prescriptions.