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TO MAKE IT HARDER TO GET HABIT DRUGS
Towns-Boylan Bill at Albany Would Stop the Loopholes in Present Prescription Law.
MEDICAL HABITUES HIT
Revocation of Licenses of Doctors, Nurses, Etc., Provided For--Bill for Federal Regulation next.
Special to The New York Times.
New York Times Monday January 26, 1914, p. 7 col. 3
ALBANY, Jan. 25.-- The Senate Committee on Public Health has under consideration a bill to prevent the sale of all habit-forming drugs except on prescription properly filled out by a practicing physician and by a licensed pharmacist, who shall keep a record of all such sales, the record blank to show the date of sale, the name and address of the physician giving the prescription, and the name and address of the person prescribed for.
The bill provides also that no prescription shall be filled more than once, the purpose being to prevent illicit dealers and addicts from having a single prescription refilled over and over again to obtain the drugs for themselves or others or for resale to habitual users. In addition it makes it unlawful for any person to sell at retail or furnish to any person other than a duly licensed physician, dentist, or veterinarian a hypodermic syringe or a hypodermic needle without first receiving from the purchaser and official prescription blank properly filled out. Failure to comply with these requirements is made punishable as a misdemeanor.
The measure was drawn by Dr. Charles B. Towns of New York City, who, with pen and voice, has been fighting vigorously for years to stamp out the vicious traffic in opium, morphine, cocaine, heroin, and those drug products of coal tar which are classed as "hypnotics" in all their varied forms. It was introduced by Senator Boylan, and its purpose is to stop loopholes in the present laws and more particularly the sale of these drugs on false prescriptions.
One of its remarkable features is that it renders ineligibles for the practice of his or her profession any physician, registered nurse, veterinarian or pharmacist who is addicted to the use of habit-forming drugs. Dr. Towns insists that the addict, whether professional or layman, has a sympathy for his kind which induces him against his better judgement and his professional and moral obligations to procure and administer the drugs to users who are legally restrained or prevented from obtaining them for themselves.
On this phase of the bill Dr. Towns says in a pamphlet which he has sent to the members of the legislature:
"Physicians are permitted by the present law, or lack of law, to prescribe and administer this class of drugs as loosely and extravagantly as they please, without responsibility as to the outcome. There is real necessity for the provision in this proposed legislation which calls for disbarment from medical practice of physicians who are addicted to drug habits. The drug taking physician is more dangerous than the drug-taking druggist or drug clerk. Drugs may spoil a surgical operation; they may induce a doctor to neglect imperative calls. The medical profession itself at present does nothing to protect the public against the irresponsible doctor. It does not disbar him; it does not even censure him. Something must be done which will eliminate him."
In these two paragraphs from the bill it is shown how Dr. Towns proposes to eliminate these undesirables:
Any license heretofore issued to any physician, dentist, veterinarian, pharmacist, or registered nurse may be revoked by the proper officers or boards having power to issue licenses to any of the foregoing upon proof that the licensee is addicted to the use of any habit-forming drugs after such licensee reasonable notice and opportunity to be heard.
Whenever any physician, dentist, veterinarian, pharmacist, or registered nurse is convicted in a court having jurisdiction of any of the violations of this article, any officer or board having power to issue licenses to any such physician, veterinarian, pharmacist, or registered nurse may, after giving such licensee reasonable notice and opportunity to be heard, revoke the same.
In advocating the passage of the bill, Dr. Towns says:
"In this State and most other States of the Union at this time we have very stringent laws regulating the sale of habit-forming drugs; but, notwithstanding all these laws, this dangerous traffic has continually increased, until it is now greater than it has ever been before. Of course, this can mean but one thing-- that there are loopholes in the law.
"In certain circumstances a physician's prescription is required before these drugs are dispensed by druggists; but there is nothing in these laws or any other laws to forbid a layman from posing as a physician, signing a false prescription with his own or any fictitious name he may fancy, with the magic letters 'M.D.' added to it or the equally magic letters 'Dr.' set before it, taking or sending this false prescription to any druggist, wholesale or retail, and obtaining through this process as many habit forming drugs of any nature as he may happen to desire.
No Registration Required
"No penalty is provided by any existing law for the man who does this, or for the druggist who fills such an order, even when knowing the prescription to be false. Indeed, the drug trade is very largely without regulation, although over the prescription counters of the drug stores are dispensed materials certainly as perilous to individual and public welfare as those dispensed across the bar of the saloon. No registration of druggists is required, and (even more astonishing) no regulation of importers and manufacturers of habit-forming drugs is demanded by any law now written upon any statute book. Thus importation, manufacture, and distribution of habit-forming drugs are now surrounded by fewer real safeguards than are thrown about tobacco.
"As the laws at present stand any one who has money and illicit enterprise enough to have a letterhead printed announcing himself under a real or a fictitious name as a druggist or a physician, a dentist, or a veterinary surgeon, can take his 'copy' to the printer, get his stationary, and forthwith communicate on it with any wholesale drug house anywhere, and have the most perilous of habit-forming drugs shipped to him in whatever quantity he wishes, from a dram to a drayload, without subjecting himself to any inquiry or the source of his supply to any liability or official criticism whatever."
Dr. Towns makes provision in his measure for those who have become so addicted to the use of drugs that to deprive them offhandof their accustomed stimulant would be to invite an out break of violence. One paragraph of the bill provides separate quarters shall be maintained in city and county hospitals in which to treat by special process sufferers from addiction to habit-forming drugs, authorizing local Boards of Health to issue without charge official prescriptions to such persons as through illness have become entitled to the regular administration of these drugs. On this phase of the subject he says:
"The existing situation is a childish one. The laws with which we vainly aim to control the traffic in and the consumption of these drugs are futile and foolish. Not one intelligent legislative move ever definitely has been made in the United States toward the creation of an accounting of the substances through their various courses of importation, manufacture, and distribution.
"In the bill which I have drawn I think this has been done. In it, I believe, exists an opportunity for New York State to one again fulfill her claim to be the Union's Empire State. This law, once on our statute books, can and will be a model for legislation in other states, thus establishing a precedent for statutes in every State, and pave the way for bigger things. Almost immediately I shall have proposed in Washington a bill which for the first time will create intelligent accounting for and regulation of foreign and interstate traffic in these drugs.
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