Scott talks up drug database to Congressional committeeby Dara Kam | April 14th, 2011
Once a foe of the state’s prescription drug database, Gov. Rick Scott boasted to a Congressional panel today about his administration’s efforts to get the system up and running.
Scott appeared before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade in a hearing entitled “Warning: The Growing Danger of Prescription Drug Diversion” chaired by U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, whose son Chesare was addicted to the powerful narcotic oxycodone.
Scott highlighted the “strike force” he established last month and focused on state lawmakers’ current efforts to cut off the source of the drugs by proposing strict regulation of distribution and dispensation of pain medications in Florida.
“The goal is clear. Target the sources of these drugs before they hit the streets,” Scott, joined by Kentucky Gov. Steve Bashear, testified.
Much of the hour-long panel featuring the two governors focused on what Florida is doing to prevent addictive pain killers from getting in the hands of drug dealers and combat prescription drug abuse.
Doctors need to be limited in the quantities of the drugs they prescribe and what they prescribe them for, Scott repeatedly said.
“The biggest thing we need to look at is regulating these manufacturers and what should these drugs be allowed to be used for,” Scott said. “The first thing is why are they even able to sell these things? There…should be a much more limited purpose that they can use these things for.”
The committee also heard testimony from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart – who called Florida “ground zero for prescription drug abuse” – and White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, who both emphasized the importance of prescription drug monitoring programs currently in use in 35 states.
Scott, who originally asked lawmakers to repeal the statewide prescription drug database, on Thursday assured the panel the system was now being implemented.
Scott said the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is not yet operational because lawmakers created it last year – they actually passed a law two years ago establishing the system – and the database had been delayed because of a recently resolved lawsuit.
“We’re just getting started,” said Scott, who objected to the system because of concerns about possible security breaches.
“It’s a big issue,” he said of privacy concerns. “We have people worried about it.”
When asked by the panel what Florida is doing to educate the public, including doctors and pharmacists, about the dangers of prescription drugs, Scott said he is relying on the media.
“First off, making sure public knows just through articles, things like that, make sure the public knows how big the problem is. We’ve done press conferences, things like that, testimony before legislature. We’ve spent a lot of time this legislative session going through the problem. That’s what we’re doing right now.”
Bashear said Kentucky pharmacy and medical schools are “pushing to make sure our doctors and pharmacists really understand…and they that they don’t get their information just from the drug reps.”
Bono went public two years ago about her son’s struggle to overcome his addiction to OxyContin.
“Aren’t these just normal families, regular families?” the California Republican who is married to Florida U.S. Rep. Connie Mack III, said. “When these kids get access to these powerful painkillers, they don’t stand a prayer to get off them.
That prompted Scott to share his own experiences, referring to a friend whose 18-year-old daughter died from an overdose two weeks ago and referring to his own younger brother Steve without naming him.
“I have a family member that’s been addicted his whole life. Never beat it. Started at a young age and never beat it,” Scott said.