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PR- 312-13
September 27, 2013


New RxStat Report and Two Data Briefs Detail Prescription Painkiller Misuse and Abuse Problem in New York City

New York City Awarded the First Ever Federal Grant to a City to Combat Prescription Painkiller Abuse

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt today announced New York City has been awarded a grant from the United States Department of Justice to continue the work of RxStat, a first in the nation multi-agency partnership that combines and uses relevant public health and safety data to address the growing problem of prescription painkiller misuse and associated consequences. RxStat was created by the Mayor's Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse and combines data from City, State and Federal agencies, ensuring that City agencies responding to the opioid crisis are able to keep up with the changing patterns of drug use. This is the first time the Justice Department has provided a grant to a local government to engage in interagency cooperation to address prescription painkiller misuse. In addition, the Mayor announced that 35 New York City hospitals have now adopted the City's voluntary guidelines for the prescription of opioid painkillers from emergency departments, and that the NYPD is beginning a pilot program to equip police officers with naloxone - a drug that can be administered via a nasal spray to reverse opioid overdoses - in a precinct that has been hard hit by opioid overdoses.

"In the critical fight against prescription drug abuse New York City has, again, been recognized as a leader for our innovative solutions to complex problems," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Working together, public health and safety agencies are targeting resources to better understand the nature and extent of the problem while also recognizing the role these painkillers play when responsibly prescribed and used."

"When properly prescribed and used, prescription painkillers can be critically important medical interventions," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs. "But when carelessly prescribed - or misused- they turn dangerous and deadly. Combining the resources of health and public safety agencies allows us to keep track of when and where prescription drug use is becoming a problem."

"Understanding the problem is vitally important when attempting to find solutions to this crisis," said Chief Policy Advisor Feinblatt. "By combining data from many agencies that track prescription drug misuse, we can better understand where the prescription drug epidemic is centered and we can best apply our resources to reducing prescription opioid dependence and other negative consequences."

"Equipping officers to administer naloxene to overdose victims may mean the difference between life or death for individuals addicted to prescription painkillers," said Commissioner Kelly. "This pilot program is the latest in the NYPD's effort against this type of drug abuse, which includes educating youth about their dangers to working with pharmacies and industry to identify illegal behavior, and arresting those who exploit the healthcare system and illegally circulate prescription drugs for selfish profit."

"It will take a multipronged approach to address prescription painkiller abuse in New York City," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. "We must prevent people from becoming dependent on these drugs in the first place. This is the point of our opioid prescribing guidelines. We also need to help people who are already dependent get into treatment. Improving our ability to collect and analyze data in real time will help us understand where additional efforts are needed to address this problem."

"The report clearly indicates that Staten Island leads the city in abuse of opioid painkillers," said Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan. "As the borough's District Attorney, I openly acknowledge that this is a problem facing our residents. However, it should also be noted that my office is at the forefront of directly addressing the issue, engaging in vigorous prosecution and supporting innovative prescription pill legislation. I am proud to be a member of the Mayor's Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse and also the Tackling Youth Substance Abuse Initiative, a coalition of advocates and organizations dedicated to combatting drug use among young people on Staten Island. The TYSA initiative is a project of the Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness that is funded by The Staten Island Foundation. It is my hope that the combined efforts of law enforcement, education professionals and the good will of the community will join together to turn back the scourge of prescription drug abuse. Prosecuting the criminals who abuse and sell drugs illegally on Staten Island is my job; working to secure a brighter, drug-free future for the borough is all of our responsibility."

About RxStat

RxStat combines comprehensive health and public safety data from City, State and Federal agencies to closely examine the abuse of prescription painkillers. RxStat members regularly report on critical indicators that measure the impact of prescription painkiller misuse on the City. In addition to this reporting, RxStat convenes briefings among public health and public safety stakeholders to share strategies and describe trends. This process provides stakeholders with an up-to-date view of the problem so that they can coordinate efforts and use resources most efficiently and effectively.

Opioid analgesics include: oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin®, Roxicodone®), hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin®), morphine, fentanyl patches and methadone. The full report is available at

Detailing the Data

Unintentional opioid analgesic overdose deaths increased 267 percent between 2000 and 2011, decreasing by 12 percent from 2011 to 2012. In 2012, prescription painkillers were involved in 190 unintentional overdose deaths in New York City. Staten Island has triple the opioid analgesic overdose rate of any other borough and has more people seeking treatment for opioid dependence than any other borough, despite having the lowest population.

The Health Department today released two Epi Data Briefs that delve further into the extent of the issue.

The first data brief provides analyses on patterns of opioid analgesic prescriptions filled by New Yorkers. Staten Islanders had the highest rate of opioid analgesic prescriptions, and those prescriptions were, on average, for a longer period of time: In 2011, for the most commonly prescribed formulations, Staten Island residents received a median day supply of 25 days, compared with 15 days among residents of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, and 10 days among Manhattan residents.

The second data brief analyzes mortality due to unintentional drug overdose in the city. The rate of unintentional overdose deaths was highest in 2006 (13.1 per 100,000 New Yorkers) and decreased on average by 22 percent per year from 2006 through 2010. The rate of unintentional overdose deaths increased by 25 percent between 2010 and 2012, from 8.1 to 10.1 per 100,000 New Yorkers (541 deaths vs. 677 deaths). The rate of unintentional overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics increased by 267 percent between 2000 and 2011, from 0.9 to 3.3 per 100,000 New Yorkers (59 deaths vs. 220 deaths). From 2011 to 2012, the rate decreased 12 percent to 2.9 per 100,000. From 2010 to 2012, heroin-involved deaths increased from 3.1 to 5.3 per 100,000.

Public Safety Intervention

The Police Department is beginning a pilot program to equip police officers with naloxone in the 120th Precinct on Staten Island. Naloxone is a drug that can be administered via a nasal spray to immediately reverse overdoses. The pilot was selected for Staten Island where the mortality rate from overdose is 7.4 per 100,000 compared to 2.4 per 100,000 citywide. The Department of Homeless Services has also trained more than 350 peace officers to administer the drug, and these officers have been successful in reversing 25 of 29 overdoses through intranasal naloxone over the last three years in single adult shelters.

If you or someone you know has a problem with prescription painkillers, call 1-800-LIFENET. For information on the emergency department opioid prescription guidelines, visit and search for "ED Opioid Guidelines."

About the Mayor's Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse

A multi-agency Task Force created by Mayor Bloomberg in December 2011 and 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 painkiller misuse and diversion in New York City. Members include Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan; Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan; Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley; Executive Deputy Commissioner for Mental Hygiene Dr. Adam Karpati; Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar; Health and Hospitals Corporation President Alan Aviles; NY/NJ HIDTA Director Chauncey Parker; Police Department Chief John Donohue; and Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm. City's Chief Analytics Officer Michael Flowers; the City's Director of Health Services Andy Cohen; and Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration Brian Crowell.


Marc La Vorgna / Samantha Levine   (212) 788-2958

Jean Weinberg (Health)   (347) 396-4177

John McCarthy (NYPD)   (646) 610-6700


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More Resources
Epi Data Brief on Unintentional Drug Poisoning (Overdose) Deaths in New York City, 2000-2012 (in PDF)
Epi Data Brief on Patterns of Opioid AnalgesicPrescriptions for New York City Residents (in PDF)
Rx Stat September 2013 Report (in PDF)