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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

'Pill mill' bill ready for House and Senate floors



IMG_0477 An effort to curb prescription drug abuse and stop South Florida’s growing pain-clinic industry is headed to the House and Senate floors, after the proposal cleared a key House committee on Monday.

Legislators on the House General Government & Health Care Appropriations Council signed off on a bill creating the proposed prescription-drug tracking database, a system that would allow doctors -- and, in some cases, police – to monitor the prescription history of those receiving narcotics.

A similar bill by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, passed its final Senate committee stop last week, and the bill is poised to receive a vote in both chambers before the legislative session ends May 1.

 “We have an epidemic in the state of Florida,” said Rep. Kelly Skidmore, a Boca Raton Democrat, who is pushing the House proposal along with Rep. Marcelo Llorente, R-Miami, and Rep. Kurt Kelly, R-Ocala. “We are absolutely the pill mill for the rest of the country….This bill solves that problem.”

The three lawmakers (above) touted the bill at an afternoon press conference in the capitol rotunda.

Thirty-eight other states have a prescription-drug tracking system, but privacy worries have stalled Tallahassee efforts to create a similar database, making Florida the largest state without one.

Narcotics investigators say that has helped make the state a prime destination for pill addicts and drug dealers from around the country.

The scope of the problem has given the prescription-drug monitoring system added momentum this year, and the bill has cleared most of its committees with little or no debate.

However, the bill drew fire from several lawmakers in its final House stop Monday, prompting nearly an hour of debate.

Among the critics: Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, the sponsor of a competing prescription drug-monitoring bill. Domino questioned a provision in the leading bill that gives pharmacists as long as 15 days to submit prescription information and called the proposed database “an issue of a George Orwellian Big Brother technology.”

Domino’s proposal, which has yet to receive a hearing in the House, would track prescriptions using a “biometric identifier” like a fingerprint, allowing prescriptions to be tracked in real time without using  a patient’s name. A similar proposal by Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, is set to be discussed by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.

However, critics of that proposal say the technology is too new and needs further testing.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 7:38pm]


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