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

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 by John Kennedy

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.

Should a warrant be required to access prescription drug database?

Monday, July 8th, 2013 by Dara Kam

A rule-making workshop about the state’s prescription drug database elicited comments from just one member of the public, a lawyer representing the ACLU who offered suggestions about how to tighten security for the program.

State health officials ordered the workshop, scheduled to last five hours, in response to the leaking of 3,300 patients’ prescription drug information in a Volusia County drug sting to lawyers representing defendants in the case.

The security breach prompted Michael Lambert, a Daytona Beach lawyer whose prescription drug history was among thousands of others’ handed out by a prosecutor and who is among the accused, to challenge the constitutionality of the database in court. Lambert says the database is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy and violates protections against searches and seizures by the government.

Accessing the database should require a search warrant, ACLU lobbyist Pamela Burch Fort told the panel. But that’s not something the department can do with a rule. Instead, it would require the Legislature to change the laws regarding the program, called the Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation Program, or E-FORSCE.

But Burch Fort also suggested that the state notify individuals like Lambert whose names have been released to third parties but who are not under investigation.

The state should also limit law enforcement agents’ ability to go on “fishing expeditions” when they query the database. Under current guidelines for the program, investigators can use a “wildcard search using partial text,” allowing them to enter partial names or conduct a search for a name that sounds like the subject’s name.

And the department should redact the names of anyone whose drug history shows up in a search but who is not part of an active investigation, the ACLU, which opposes the database, suggested. The ACLU of Florida has asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the release of the names.

Department of Health officials did not take questions from reporters following the meeting, which lasted about half an hour, and instead directed reporters to submit questions in writing.

But Lorrie Abramowitz, an investigator with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said a warrant should not be required to access the database because they aren’t needed to access pharmacists’ or doctors’ prescription drug records.

Abramowitz has investigated drug crimes for nearly two decades, and, like other law enforcement officials including Attorney General Pam Bondi, she said the database has dramatically reduced the number of “doctor shoppers.”

“It absolutely has been a huge asset,” Abramowitz said. “It’s working.”

Officials at the Florida Department of Health, which oversees the program, announced in June they were exploring stricter security measures to help ensure patients’ privacy. The department will have another workshop in August.

ACLU seeks federal probe of FL drug database

Monday, June 24th, 2013 by Dara Kam

The ACLU of Florida has asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the state’s prescription drug database after the Rx drug histories of 3,300 patients were leaked to lawyers in a narcotics sting last month.

The civil rights group is accusing the state Department of Health; the program manager of the drug database, called ““E-FORCSE” (Electronic Florida On-Line Registry of Controlled Substances Evaluation Program); the U.S. DEA; the office of R.J. Larizza, state attorney for the Seventh Judicial Circuit; and other unknown entities and individuals of violating Floridians’ privacy.

Larizza gave the list of names to five of six attorneys for defendants accused of prescription drug fraud in May. Last week, he filed court documents showing that the 3,300 names were the result of a 2011 query by a DEA agent investigating a prescription fraud ring. Michael Lambert, an attorney whose name was on the list but is not accused of any crime, sued Larizza and is also challenging the constitutionality of the law. Lambert believes it is an unconstitutional violation of privacy and amounts to an unreasonable search and seizure by the government.

Last week, the Florida Department of Health, which oversees the program, announced it was exploring stricter security measures to help ensure patients’ privacy.

In the complaint submitted Saturday, ACLU lawyer Maria Kayanan told federal officials that law enforcement officials are given too much freedom when seeking records from the database, according to the program’s user manual.

Investigators can use a “wildcard search using partial text;” enter partial names or conduct a search for a name that sounds like the subject’s name, Kayanan wrote.

“There is no apparent oversight of the use of DOH’s PDMP by law enforcement, and there is no accountability for its misuse. The unacceptably broad queries and apparent lack of oversight invite abusive fishing expeditions by law enforcement agencies that can and, indeed have, revealed to private third parties, the confidential medical and prescription history, along with other personal identifying information, of thousands of individuals who are lawfully prescribed, and lawfully taking, prescription drugs,” she wrote. An individual’s prescription records are medical records, as they reveal intimate details of an individual’s medical conditions—details that should remain private, within the doctor-patient relationship.”

The ACLU is ramping up its attempt to get state health officials to tell them exactly what DEA Agent Sean Tucker asked for and that resulted in so many patients’ drug records. Health officials initially said the information sought by the ACLU was exempt from the state’s Sunshine Law because it is part of an active investigation.

Kayanan, in a renewed public records request made today, argued that the exemption citing “active investigation” cannot possibly include the other 3,294 people who are not among the six accused in the Volusia County case. She’s also trying to find out how many times law enforcement agencies have used a broad name search in their queries, how long the state is retaining those queries, and all of the requests from investigators the department has rejected.

Attorney General Pam Bondi and others insist the database has contributed to a decline in prescription drug overdoses and a sharp decrease in “doctor shopping.” Gov. Rick Scott initially opposed the program, citing privacy concerns, but later relented.

Created in 2009, the database became operational in the fall of 2011 but funding for the program foundered. Lawmakers banned the use of state money or contributions from drug companies to pay for the program until this year, when Scott signed off on $500,000 in public funds for the database.

Health officials tightening security of drug database after 3,300 Rx histories revealed

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 by Dara Kam

State officials are tightening security of the statewide prescription drug database after the names, prescription drug history and other personal information of 3,300 individuals were released to lawyers of six defendants in a prescription drug fraud sting in May.

Wednesday’s announcement by Department of Health officials regarding stricter security measures came on the same day the state attorney who released the records revealed new details about how an investigation into a drug trafficking ring netted so many names of people apparently unrelated to the sting.

The changes to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, backed by prosecutors, are still in the works. The Health Department will hold a workshop on the proposed rules on July 8 to “identify any existing gaps” related to what happens to the records once they are mined from the database and “to establish accountability standards for users of PDMP information,” according to a press release issued by DOH today.

“The PDMP works daily to save the lives of those with prescription narcotic addiction and privacy is job one,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “That’s why today the Department is taking steps forward to put additional safeguards in place to prevent any unauthorized use of information that is intended to save lives. Moreover, I want to thank the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association for adopting procedures that provide further safeguards on how information from the program is used in court proceedings.”

The proposed changes won’t fix the problem, according to Michael Lambert, the Daytona Beach lawyer whose name was among the thousands on the list. It’s already a crime to knowingly and willfully wrongly distribute the information according to state law.

Seventh Judicial Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza gave the list of names to five of six attorneys for defendants accused of prescription drug fraud. Lambert is suing Larizza and asking a judge to block the law, which Lambert says is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy and unconstitutionally violates protections against government searches and seizures.

Stricter rules about who can look at the data once it’s been retrieved won’t help, Lambert said. Larizza should have redacted the names of the individuals on the list who were not accused of crimes, he said.

“I wasn’t participating in fraud and neither were these other thousands of people. So what right do they they have to get my information out there?”

Was Gov. Rick Scott right to worry about prescription drug database?

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013 by Dara Kam

It took some convincing, but proponents of Florida’s prescription drug database, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, finally persuaded Gov. Rick Scott to sign off on the program that contains Rx information for narcotics and other addictive drugs.

Scott balked because he didn’t trust that the database couldn’t be hacked or that individuals’ prescription drug info could be erroneously made public.

Now, the ACLU of Florida, which has taken Scott to court over a variety of his policies, is saying that’s exactly what’s happened, and that the drug records of 3,300 individuals has landed in the wrong hands.

The ACLU claims that the prescription drug records of 3,300 individuals were given to prosecutors and defense attorneys in six criminal cases in Volusia County.

“Somehow information that is supposed to remain private and confidential and be safely maintained in this unfortunate database made its way into third parties who have no right to it,” said ACLU of Florida attorney Maria Kayanan.

The civil rights organization is seeking more information about how the patients’ prescriptions, birthdates, addresses was made public during the court cases.

The database was created in 2009 but wasn’t up and running until 2011. Lawmakers this year agreed to allow state money to be used to fund the database, pushed by President Obama’s drug czar and others as way to help fight prescription drug abuse by preventing “doctor shopping.”

The ACLU has issued a public records request to the Florida Department of Health and to the Seminole County Sheriff’s office in search of records relating to requests made by local or federal law enforcement agencies to the Electronic Florida On-Line Registry of Controlled Substances Evaluation (E-FORSCE) database.

“It certainly looks like there were multiple breaches at multiple places. Some of them may have been unintentional. We don’t know. But the bottom line is this is so very wrong,” Kayanan said.

Pill mill bill on life support?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011 by Dara Kam

GOP legislative leaders are in a standoff on a pill mill crackdown with less than 36 hours left until the session is expected to end.

Sen. Mike Fasano, the Senate’s pill mill bill sponsor, said he could not get House counterpart Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, to agree to a compromise proposal incorporating much of Schenck’s plan, including a ban on doctors dispensing narcotics and imposing new permitting restrictions on pharmacies.

Fasano also agreed to ban pharmaceutical companies from contributing to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, something Gov. Rick Scott has insisted on. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has offered $1 million to the foundation responsible for paying for the database.

But Schenck sent back a dozen components he wanted in the bill, including a cap on the amount of doses of highly addictive medications that pharmacies can dole out, Fasano said.

Fasano won’t agree to the dosage caps because, he said, they are few below what hospices and pharmacies catering to cancer hospitals need to treat patients in chronic pain.

Instead, Fasano is returning to his original plan to strip the House bill, approved 116-1 last month, and put on Attorney General Pam Bondi’s language tightening penalties on rogue doctors and clinics and reducing the number of days dispensers have to report information to the prescription drug database from 14 to 7 days.

But Scott and House leaders, including Speaker Dean Cannon, have insisted on a comprehensive plan that would include restrictions on wholesalers, pharmacies and doctors to curb the illicit prescription drug market in Florida that some say has been responsible for a national prescription drug addiction crisis.

“We’ve made an offer to them but they’re thus far reluctant to accept it. So my goal is at a minimum to get the language that would enhance the penalties, go after unscrupulous doctors, unscrupulous pill mill owners, all of the AG language along with reducing the requirement of reporting to the PDMP form 14 days to 7 days,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said. “Right now that’s what I’d like to do but nothing’s definite.”

Read more of the differences between Schenck and Fasano after the jump.
(more…)

Senate prez: ‘A mistake was made’ in $1.75 million for drug database

Thursday, April 28th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate will vote on its pill mill bill tomorrow and remove the $1.75 million for the state’s drug database Senate President Mike Haridopolos said was mistakenly included in the package.

The chamber spent a lengthy session repeatedly rebuking Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff’s efforts to require law enforcement officials to get search warrants before they can access the database before hurriedly approving an amendment sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano dealing with “funding for the prescription drug monitoring program.”

Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Dean Cannon, who have both reversed their positions on scrapping the prescription drug database, have insisted that no taxpayer funds be used to pay for the program, as current law prohibits.

“First and foremost, I found out after the fact today that that was done. I did not anticipate that. I expect that to be removed tomorrow on third reading,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told reporters later in the day. Haridopolos has been an ardent proponent of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and has even said he believes the state should foot the bill for it.

“There’s been no bigger proponent of making sure we have this legislation done in the right fashion,” Haridopolos said. “I was told after we got off the floor. As soon as I was made aware of it, I let the governor and the Speaker know that that was an area that we were going to make adjustments on. I think a mistake was made today. When you make a mistake, you fix the mistake.”

With or without the money, the House and Senate plans remain far apart as the clock winds down on the legislative session.

The House plan restricts doctors ability to dispense narcotics, creates stricter permitting requirements for pharmacies and limits the amount of doses of highly addictive pain medications pharmacies can dispense. The Senate proposal instead strengthens penalties against pill mills and rogue doctors .

The Senate plans to take up the House’s measure (HB 7095) tomorrow, strip it out, put its bill on it and send it back to the House.

House passes pill mill crackdown

Thursday, April 21st, 2011 by Dara Kam

By a 116-1, the Florida House approved its plan to crack down on rogue doctors and rein in prescription drug abuse.

The measure keeps the state’s drug database and most current regulation of pain clinics and but bars doctors from dispensing narcotics from their offices, something the Florida Medical Association opposes. The plan (HB 7095) also sets new permitting requirements for pharmacies and limits the amount of highly addictive pain medications pharmacies can give out.

The measure received bipartisan support, including from lawmakers who testified about how addiction problems have personally affected their families.

“I stand here as one of those that’s involved with a family member” addicted to OxyContin, Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, said. “I will tell you it’s devastating on everyone who comes in contact with it. I’ve had many sleepless nights on this issue.
My wife and I have cried together, prayed together. There may be a couple things in this bill we don’t like. There always is. But this bill will do great, great things to protect our young kids…I know there’s other members in here who’ve had to deal with this…It’s horrible. It’s absolutely horrible.”

The plan has the support of both Gov. Rick Scott, who originally opposed the drug database and wanted lawmakers to repeal it, and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

The Senate’s version of the pill mill legislation (SB 818) does not include the ban on doctor dispensing or the new pharmacy regulations.

Scott talks up drug database to Congressional committee

Thursday, April 14th, 2011 by Dara Kam

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.”

(more…)

Scott testified in DC on pill mills – watch live

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott testifies in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee about prescription drug abuse.

Gov. Rick Scott will appear before a Congressional committee on Thursday to testify about prescription drug abuse.

Watch the hearing live now.

Scott will join Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, a Democrat, at the hearing entitled “Warning: The Growing Danger of Prescription Drug Diversion” at the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade chaired by Rep. Mary Bono Mack.

Scott, who previously asked lawmakers for a repeal of the statewide prescription drug database law enforcement officials say is crucial in cracking down on prescription drug abuse, yesterday signed off on the latest state House pill mill bill that would keep the database, restrict doctors’ ability to dole out the drugs and establish new standards for pharmacies. The compromise raises hopes that the House and Senate will strike a deal on pill mill legislation before the session ends on May 6.

Prescription drug database back on track

Friday, April 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The state’s long-awaited prescription drug database is back on track after state health officials signed a final order today in a bid dispute keeping the program in limbo for months.

The Department of Health signed the order moving forward with the contract with Health Information Design Inc., the Alabama-based company that twice won administrative challenges, although Gov. Rick Scott – who scrapped the database in his budget proposal – remains dubious about it.

“The concerns he’s voiced still remain. He’s concerned about patient privacy and wants to make sure that funding this thing never ends up on the backs of taxpayers. He still doesn’t think it’s the silver bullet that so many proponents claim,” Scott spokesman Brian Hughes said.

Those proponents include law enforcement officials from the state’s top cop, Attorney General Pam Bondi, to Palm Beach County state attorney Michael McAuliffe, and Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

“Stopping pill mills has been my top priority since I took office, and the prescription drug monitoring program that the Department of Health will now be implementing is an important tool in combating this crisis,” Bondi said in a statement. “As part of a criminal investigation, the program will enable law enforcement to act more quickly in identifying and arresting pill mill operators.”

Haridopolos has been in a stand-off over the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program with House Speaker Dean Cannon, who wants to repeal the system lawmakers created two years ago but has yet to be implemented. Haridopolos said he not only wants it up and running, he’s willing to have the state pay for it although state law prohibits taxpayer money from being used to create or operate the database.

“The database will provide ‘shock and awe’ in Florida’s efforts to end the criminal abuse of legal prescription drugs,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said in a press release. “In addition to the Senate’s commitment to the database, pending legislation will strengthen the prescription drug monitoring program and provide even stronger privacy protections for individual Floridians.”

House big-box pill mill bill a no-go in the Senate

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The House’s latest proposal that would give retailers like Walgreens and CVS exclusive rights to dispense highly addictive pain medications is a no-go in the Senate, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said Wednesday afternoon.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure (HB 7095) this morning by a 12-6 vote, deepening the divide between the two chambers’ leaders over how best to crack down on pill mills.

Haridopolos insists on getting the state’s prescription drug database up and running despite his House counterpart Speaker Dean Cannon’s push to have it repealed.

The House’s latest plan to limit distribution of the narcotics by prohibiting doctors from being able to dispense them likely won’t go anywhere in the Senate, said Haridopolos, whose wife is a doctor.

“I don’t have a lot of hope for that one. We’re not even going in that direction,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said this afternoon at his weekly briefing with reporters.

House pill mill bill gives big pharmacies a boost

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The House gave retail pharmacies a boost this morning in its approach to reining in pill mills by going after rogue distributors.

Rep. Robert Schenck, sponsor of the bill (HB 7095), offered an amendment that would limit dispensation of narcotics to pharmacies that are publicly traded, have more than $100 million of taxable assets in Florida or have been in operation continuously for at least a decade.

The measure would also require the use of tamper-proof prescription pads or electronic prescribing for all controlled substances.

Schenck’s amendment, approved by the House Judiciary Committee this morning, also goes a bit easier on dispensing docs than his previous proposal which would have banned them from dispensing virtually any medications. Under Schenck’s new plan, only the pharmacies could dole out Schedule II and III drugs. Schedule II drugs iclude highly addictive narcotics like oxycodone and hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine. Schedule 3 drugs include sedatives and steroid compounds. (more…)

Senate pill mill bill sails through committee

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 by Dara Kam

A Senate committee this morning unanimously approved a measure strengthening the state’s yet-to-be-implemented prescription drug database and creating harsher penalties for pill mills, one of Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s top priorities.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee also stripped out a measure that would have created made it easier for doctors to prescribe tamper-proof narcotics that prevent drug addicts from crushing the pills to snort or inject the pain meds. Most generic drug manufacturers wanted that out of the bill because no generic drugs yet come in tamper-proof form.

Bondi urged the committee to pass the bill (SB 818) to make it easier for her and other prosecutors to crack down on rogue pain management clinics and doctors.

Bondi said she’s “never seen anything like” the illicit pain medication epidemic in her 20 years as a prosecutor in Tampa and stressed the need for the prescription drug database opposed by Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Dean Cannon. A House committee recently approved a measure that would repeal the database created by lawmakers two years ago. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, is refusing to back down from his support for the database.

“It’s unreal. It’s everywhere you go,” she said. “We need a comprehensive plan. We need the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.”

Bondi said drug dealers thwarted by a prescription drug database in their state are flocking to the Sunshine State to purchase drugs and sell them in Appalachia.

Sen. Mike Fasano, the bill’s sponsor, also pushed the committee to sign off on his proposal.

“There’s not a person in this room today…that hasn’t been affected by this epidemic,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said.

Drug database repeal DOA in Senate

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate President Mike Haridopolos is refusing to back down from his insistence that the state’s prescription drug database get up and running despite opposition from Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Dean Cannon.

A House committee last week passed a bill repealing the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program lawmakers created two years ago but yet to be implemented. A separate bill would also scrap all of the oversight of the pill mills.

“How do I say this nicely. We have a law on the books. It’s a database. If we choose not to fund it with taxpayer dollars, whatever happens there, we have secured private sector dollars,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said when asked if he supports the House’s elimination of pill mill regulation. I understand how laws are passed and it has to pass both chambers. We are not going to adjust the database. We believe it’s a very good idea. I strongly believe that we have to get a handle on this…We have no interest whatsoever of scrapping that database.”

Haridopolos said he tapped his “good friend” Sen. Mike Fasano, an ardent supporter of the database who sponsored much of the legislation cracking down on pill mills, to negotiate with the House on the issue.

“We’re the pill mill capitol of the world probably. We need to stop it. We have a device that other states have used successfully…I’m very comfortable with where we’re at,” Haridopolos said.

UPDATE: Can guv kill drug database donation?

Friday, March 11th, 2011 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Gov. Scott’s spokesman Brian Hughes said his boss never tried to return the $1 million donation to the private, non-profit Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Foundation.
“If the senator wanted an answer to his question, he should have called us,” Hughes said.
Scott “never communicated any opinion” about the grant to Purdue or the foundation, Hughes said.
“The decision is up to the foundation,” he said.

Does Gov. Rick Scott have the authority to reject a $1 million donation to a private foundation created by lawmakers to create the prescription drug database the governor opposes?

That’s what Sen. Mike Fasano, an ardent supporter of the yet-to-be-implemented Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, publicly asked Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander at a budget committee meeting this afternoon.

Fasano said he’s had no direct contact with Scott – “that’s no surprise,” he said -but had seen news reports that Scott was not interested in the $1 million Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the highly addictive pain pills Oxycontin, offered to give to the foundation created to pay for the drug database.

“Does the governor have the right to reject that money?” Fasano asked.

Alexander diplomatically dealt with Fasano’s inquiry.

“I’m not sure,” the Lake Wales Republican, who’s had his own differences with Scott about his sale of the state’s planes, replied. “I share your concern. I certainly voted for and supported the effort to rein in the prescription drug mills.”

A House committee, with House Speaker Dean Cannon’s blessing, approved a measure yesterday repealing the drug database law enforcement officials believe is crucial in cracking down on prescription drug abuse.

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, piled on.

She asked the committee to find out how much the state is paying to prosecute and lock up drug dealers associated with pill mills.

House committee passes measure abolishing Rx drug database

Thursday, March 10th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The House Health and Human Services Committee passed a measure that would scrap the state’s yet-to-be-implemented prescription drug database.

The committee approved the bill (PCB HHSC 11-04) with a 12-5 vote after hearing testimony from supporters of the database law enforcement officials, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, believe is necessary to crack down on prescription drug abuse.

Port St. Lucie vice mayor Linda Bartz urged the committee to vote against the measure, tearfully sharing the story of her daughter’s struggle with narcotics. Bartz said she had her daughter arrested to save her life.

“I believed when I had her arrested as I believe today that she was facing imminent death from a drug overdose,” she said. She said her daughter was able to get the drugs by “doctor shopping,” which the database is designed to reduce.

“I’m one of the lucky ones. My daughter is not one of the seven yet,” Bartz said.

But committee chairman Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, said the database, not yet in operation, is not working and, like Gov. Rick Scott, believes it is an invasion of privacy.

“The database simply tracks the problem of most law abiding citizens and at the expense of sacrificing our privacy,” he said.

The database has House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, at odds. Cannon wants to scrap it while Haridopolos wants it up and running and is willing to pay to keep it going. Current law forbids any state money from being spent on creation or maintenance of the drug-tracking system.

House committee gives initial OK to pill mill bill

Thursday, March 10th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The House Health and Human Services Committee gave a preliminary nod to a measure backed by House Speaker Dean Cannon that would limit physicians’ ability to dispense drugs and scrap current laws regulating pain management clinics.

The measure (PCB HHSC 11-03) would also allow felons to own and operate “pill mills,” a prohibition lawmakers passed two years ago after it was reported that some of the clinics were owned by convicted drug dealers.

The committee is getting ready to pass a second measure (PCB HHSC 11-04) that would repeal the state’s yet-to-be implemented prescription drug database.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, has insisted he wants to get the database up and running and is willing to spend the $500,000 a year to operate it although lawmakers barred any state money to fund the program.

Bondi hails drug database ruling

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi applauded an administrative law judge’s ruling today putting the state’s prescription drug database back on track.

“The prescription drug database can be an important part of the fight against pill mills. Hopefully this ruling will end needless delays to the implementation of Florida’s database,” Bondi said in a statement.

Bondi’s continued support for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program puts her squarely at odds with fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who wants lawmakers to repeal the yet-to-be-implemented system.

Bondi has made prescription drug abuse one of her top priorities and has become the state’s top official fighting the proliferation of pill mills after Scott scrapped the governor’s office of drug control.

Law enforcement officials insist the database will help cut down on “doctor shopping” and reduce the proliferation of narcotics on the street.

UPDATE: Judge dismisses drug database protest

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Department of Health spokeswoman Michelle Dahnke didn’t reveal much about how the agency will proceed with the database after the judge’s ruling.

“The Department will determine our next steps following a review of the ruling,” she wrote in an e-mail.

An administrative law judge today dismissed a bid protest that kept the state’s controversial drug database from being implemented but the program hailed by law enforcement officials remains in limbo.

In a 71-page order, DOAH Judge Robert Meale ruled that the Department of Health didn’t do anything wrong by awarding the bid to Health Information Designs. Competitor Optimum Technology challenged the bid, saying the department erred in calculating the companies’ proposals.

Under the Health Information Designs contract, the database will cost $887,059 to get up and running. Optimum’s bid – $565,044 – didn’t win because the company scored lower overall. The case is now closed.

The judge’s ruling paves the way for department officials to move forward with the database, but that’s unlikely to happen because Gov. Rick Scott wants lawmakers to repeal the law they passed two years ago creating it – even though they also prohibited the use of any state funds to underwrite it.

(more…)

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