Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Senate unanimously approves system to track potential prescription drug abuse

TALLAHASSEE — After years of stalled efforts to stop prescription-drug abuse and slow the state's growing pain clinic industry, the Florida Senate on Friday passed legislation to create a statewide monitoring system to track those ''doctor shopping'' for addictive pills.

The proposal by Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican, was approved 39-0 and would create a statewide database to track the prescriptions written and filled for certain medications, including narcotic painkillers such as oxycodone.

Doctors, pharmacists — and, in some cases, law enforcement — could then use that information to look for people "doctor shopping," a term used for those who go from doctor to doctor to get prescriptions for addictive medications.

Thirty-eight other states already have prescription tracking databases. But privacy concerns have stalled previous attempts to create one in Florida, making it the largest state without one.

Investigators say that has made Florida a prime destination for drug dealers and addicts from around the nation.

In the Tampa Bay area, fatal prescription drug overdoses have soared in recent years to more than 500 annually. Prescription drug deaths now run neck-and-neck with auto crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in the region.

Statewide, prescription drug overdoses are killing more than 2,000 people a year, more than tripling the number of deaths attributed to illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin.

"The state has turned a blind eye to this," said Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat. "We've become the drug supplier for the rest of the country."

The proposal now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass.

Some members in that chamber, however, have expressed concerns about creating a state-run database, a sentiment echoed by some senators Friday.

"I absolutely agree with the goal of this bill, but to give some bureaucrat in Tallahassee access to your medical records, it scares the heck out of me," said Sen. Charlie Justice, a St. Petersburg Democrat. "So I would urge that we are careful and take every available step to protect privacy."

Fasano said health insurers already track prescription information of their patients, and the current proposal targets those paying cash for medications.

Joel Kaufman, director of Broward County's Commission on Substance Abuse, said the prescription database will be less a tool for police than an aid for doctors, allowing them to identify potential addicts and get them drug treatment.

Alarmed by the steady rise in prescription drug addiction and overdose deaths, Kaufman's organization and other health advocates have led a drumbeat for a prescription database over the past seven years.

"It feels great that it's gotten this far," Kaufman said. "But until it gets to the governor's desk, I'm cautiously optimistic."

Florida Senate unanimously approves system to track potential prescription drug abuse 04/24/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 24, 2009 11:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection

    Wildlife

    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  2. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  3. Pasco commuters watch out: Broken water main restricts State Road 52

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A water main break has caused a portion of State Road 52 — one of the busiest roads in Pasco County — to buckle on Thursday afternoon, reducing three lanes of westbound traffic to just one.

  4. Man taken into custody after live streaming drive along Clearwater Beach sand

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Clearwater Police took a man into custody Thursday afternoon after, they said, he drove his car over beach chairs and umbrellas along Clearwater Beach and streamed it on Facebook.

    Clearwater Police took a suspect into custody Thursday afternoon after he drove along Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, running over beach chairs and umbrellas. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  5. Once trapped and wounded, manatee and calf return to the wild

    Wildlife

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The small crowd readied cameras and craned their necks, peering over heads and through bodies to try and catch a glimpse. Brittany Pharel, 10, wanted to see the hulking manatees, a mother and her calf, laid out on blue tarps Thursday along the edge of the Pithlachascotee River.

    Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo's associate veterinarian Lauren Smith, 33, examines the heart rate of a manatee calf named Cottee just before it was released into the waters of the Pithlachascotee River on Thursday. 
Cottee's mother Pascow was released at the same time in New Port Richey. 
The pair became stranded in May and the mother was found wounded. They needed to be rehabilitated before they could be released into open waters. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]