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Florida’s Rx database draws controversy, but little use by docs

by John Kennedy | September 24th, 2013

Florida’s prescription-drug database, seen by supporters as a key front in the state’s battle against drug abuse, is being used by less than 17 percent of the state’s health care professionals, Health Department officials acknowledged Tuesday.

The drug-monitoring database is already under scrutiny following the wrongful release of the drug histories of more than 3,000 people to attorneys earlier this year.

But several lawmakers Tuesday said they were surprised by how little it is relied on by medical professionals issuing prescriptions.

“I’m surprised it’s not higher given how much we talk about this,” said Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando.

The database was once fought by Gov. Rick Scott, who became a supporter after Attorney General Pam Bondi and others convinced him that having an effective monitoring program was crucial to stop doctor-shopping by those seeking prescription drugs.

It was also designed to help law enforcement crack down on medical professionals suspected of profiting from over-issuing prescriptions.

The ACLU told a House Health Quality Subcommittee on Tuesday that it wants stricter standards for law enforcement reviewing Floridians’ drug histories. The database’s program manager, Rebecca Poston, assured lawmakers that efforts remain underway to tighten security.

But Poston conceded that there is no law requiring doctors and others to use the database before they issue prescriptions.

Professionals had earlier complained about long delays accessing the data. But now, Poston said it appears doctors, dentists and pharmacists just prefer not to take time to review prescription histories.

“There’s nothing that requires the practitioner to utilize the system,” Poston told lawmakers.

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