Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bill to monitor prescription drugs on way to Gov. Crist

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers on Thursday approved a plan to monitor the prescription drugs sold by doctors and pharmacists throughout the state, hoping to shed South Florida's reputation as the fountainhead of black-market painkillers flooding the eastern United States.

By a vote of 103 to 10, the House of Representatives agreed to create a statewide database to track drug purchases and curb "doctor shopping" by addicts and potential drug peddlers seeking pills from multiple physicians. Last week, the Senate also approved the bill, which Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to sign into law.

Florida is one of only 12 states without such a law — making the state a magnet for pill dealers from elsewhere who come to Florida's pain clinics to buy pills undetected, narcotics investigators say.

Backers of the bill say the database will allow doctors to track the prescription history of patients and flag those getting pills from other doctors. In some instances, law enforcement investigators will be able to obtain prescription records.

Investigators say the number of pain clinics in South Florida has ballooned from an estimated 60 to 150 in the past year — with at least 89 in Broward County alone.

"I'm ashamed that my county has the unenviable distinction of being the pill mill capital of the United States. We have a chance to change that," said Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs.

During Thursday's 90-minute debate, lawmakers also denounced the clinics for trying to lure patients with blaring advertisements, discount coupons and the promise of narcotics sold onsite.

"Come to Broward County. Have some fun. Buy some pills," scoffed Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach.

Health advocacy groups battled for seven years to win approval for a prescription monitoring program, but the proposal was repeatedly shot down in the Legislature over patient-privacy concerns. The issue didn't gain traction among lawmakers until the prescription drug problem grew into a crisis. In recent years, South Florida pain clinics have become a chief supplier of illegal painkillers in the country. In the last half of 2008, the nation's top 50 doctors dispensing oxycodone — an addictive and potentially dangerous narcotic — all practiced in Florida, with 33 of them working in Broward, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Health officials say deaths from prescription drugs now triple deaths from illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Tampa Bay area prescription deaths have surged to more than 500 a year, while the state's death toll from now tops 2,000 annually.

Bill to monitor prescription drugs on way to Gov. Crist 04/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 30, 2009 11:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike


    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.

  2. No bond for suspect in Kissimmee officers' fatal shooting


    KISSIMMEE — A suspect in the fatal shooting of two police officers in Florida will be staying in jail after a judge denied him bond Sunday, saying there was probable cause for his first-degree murder charge

    Officers Matthew Baxter, left, and Sam Howard, right, who were both shot and killed in Kissimmee, Florida, on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. [Kissimmee Police]
  3. Tampa police arrest 22-year-old man in July murder


    TAMPA — Police arrested Sunday a 22-year-old man who detectives said shot and killed a Tampa man after an argument.

    Tampa police arrested Dejonta Felder, 22, in the murder of 32-year-old Julius R. Carter. [Tampa Police Department]
  4. The rise and humiliating fall of Chris Cantwell, Charlottesville's star 'fascist'


    The white supremacists, nationalists and far-right trolls who starred in last weekend's violent Charlottesville, Virginia, rallies have suffered no lack of humiliation in the days since.

    White nationalist Chris Cantwell has had quite the week after being featured prominently in an HBO news program on the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. [Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post]