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Press Release

Press Release # 046-13
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

MEDIA CONTACT: (347) 396-4177
Jean Weinberg/Veronica Lewin:

Health Department Releases Powerful New Television Ads Highlighting the Risks of Prescription Painkiller Abuse

Overdose death rate from prescription painkillers increased 267 percent in New York City between 2000 and 2011

December 4, 2013 –The Health Department launched a new television ad campaign today highlighting the risks of prescription painkillers, also known as opioid analgesics. In New York City, the opioid analgesic overdose death rate increased 267 percent between 2000 and 2011, followed by a slight decrease in 2012. In 2012, Staten Islanders had the highest rate (10.1 per 100,000) of opioid analgesic overdose deaths – more than three times as high as all other boroughs.

The ads are personal accounts of how opioid analgesics have impacted the lives of two New Yorkers. The first ad features a Staten Island parent whose 22-year-old son died from an opioid analgesic overdose. The second ad features a personal account from a New Yorker who received treatment for opioid analgesic addiction. Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley and Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro unveiled the ads at Staten Island Borough Hall, where they were joined by Staten Island resident Ann Marie Perrotto, who is featured in the ad campaign, and Tackling Youth Substance Abuse Executive Director Adrienne Abbate.

“If misused, opioid painkillers can be just as dangerous as heroin and other illicit drugs and can lead to addiction or fatal overdose,” said Commissioner Farley. “These ads show that the national prescription painkiller problem hits close to home. It is essential that every New Yorker is aware of the risks of these common prescription drugs.”

“Over the last several years, Staten Island has seen an alarming number of its residents overdose on opioids, many of whom are young adults,” said Borough President Molinaro. “In fact, we have the highest opioid overdose death rate in any Borough. It is my hope that these new television ads will alert people to the dangers of opioid abuse, and will help us to see a decrease in opioid abuse on Staten Island and throughout the City.”

Opioid analgesics include drugs such as oxycodone (e.g., Percocet® or OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin®). Between 2008 and 2012, the number of New York City residents who filled an opioid analgesic prescription increased by 13%, from 632,000 (75 per 1,000 residents) to 740,000 (85 per 1,000 residents). In 2012, Staten Island residents filled prescriptions at a higher rate (122 per 1,000 residents) – 1.5 times more than residents of all other boroughs (86 per 1,000 residents). In 2012, a total of 190 New Yorkers died from opioid analgesic-related overdoses – about one death every other day.

To specifically address opioid analgesic misuse and abuse on Staten Island, Commissioner Farley led two conferences in June for doctors and dentists in the borough. From June to August 2013, the Health Department visited more than 1,000 health care providers across Staten Island to educate them about the Department’s opioid prescribing guidelines and increase awareness about opioid analgesic misuse and its health consequences. With Staten Island University Hospital, the Health Department co-sponsored a training for physicians on the use of the effective medication buprenorphine, for treating opioid addiction. The Health Department also supplies naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, to overdose prevention programs. Additionally, the New York City guidelines for prescribing opioids from emergency departments have been adopted by 35 emergency departments across the City.

“The Staten Island Foundation is pleased to support these TV spots intended to increase awareness about the risks of dependence and overdose from opioid analgesics,”said Betsy Dubovsky Executive Director of The Staten Island Foundation. “We have a crisis in Staten Island and we need this community to come together to help make known the prevention services, prescriber education, funding for community resources and coverage for treatment we so desperately need to save lives.”

“Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) is appreciative of the efforts the NYC DOHMH has made to address the opioid epidemic on Staten Island. The latest ad campaign, featuring a Staten Island parent, is particularly compelling because it shows the devastating impact that opioid misuse can have on a family.” Ms. Abbate added that the timing of the campaign is particularly fortuitous as it coincides with a community forum planned for Dec. 10 aimed at raising awareness of the opioid epidemic and providing community members with resources. Ms. Perotto will be sharing her story at the forum and will be joined by experts from the fields of substance abuse prevention and treatment. “We cannot get the word out enough on this critical issue. This campaign and the forum is a wake-up call that this can happen to anyone. ”

In 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg created the multi-agency Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse in response to the growing epidemic. Co-chaired by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs and Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt, the Task Force’s mission is to develop and implement coordinated strategies for responding to the growth of opioid analgesic misuse and diversion in New York City. The Task Force created RxStat to provide an overview of the prescription painkiller abuse problem in New York City. RxStat, for the first time, monitors public health and safety data from city,state and federal agencies to help analyze and combat prescription painkiller abuse and its associated public health and safety consequences.

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