The tide of prescription drug abuse across the country might start to ebb now that law enforcement officials know what to look for. Yesterday the New York State Attorney General’s office announced the sentencing of Bronx resident John “Nugget” Bland, 49, kingpin of an oxycodone drug ring that reached as far north as Poughkeepsie. A.G. Eric Schneiderman says that it’s cases like these that underline the need for the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, a drug overperscription-tracking technology and Schneiderman’s pet legislation that was signed into law last year.
Bland was sentenced for five years in state prison for running an oxycodone ring in New York City and Duchess and Orange Counties, pushing nearly $470,000 in product between February 2011 and January 2012. He pleaded out back in June to Attempted Operating as a Major Trafficker and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree.
Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo signed I-STOP into law. The new system requires medical practitioners to update a real-time database of prescriptions for certain drugs, which over time might allow the system to detect surplus prescriptions being funneled out onto the streets.
The Attorney General’s office beat its chest over the sentencing, but claimed that Bland’s operation could have been sniffed out sooner if I-STOP had already been in place. The law isn’t scheduled to come into effect until late August 2013.
“Cases like this are exactly why my office fought to pass New York’s historic I-STOP prescription drug abuse prevention law. The state prison sentence that this kingpin will serve should be warning to all who are tempted to capitalize on other peoples’ addictions,” says Schneiderman.
The I-STOP legislation is important in that it not only targets the lay drug dealers, but the unscrupulous doctors out there who knowingly overprescribe.
Just last week, 70-year-old Long Island-based doctor William Conway pleaded guilty to distributing painkillers to patients he knew were addicts. In one case, a patient died from an overdose after being prescribed 450 pills in a single visit. Between 2009 and 2011, Conway distributed over 780,000 pills in total. That’s roughly 50 times the number Bland was caught for. Conway now faces up to 20 years in prison.