Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gov. Rick Scott rejects $1M from OxyContin maker to fund drug database

One of the country's largest drug manufacturers is offering a $1 million donation to help pay for a prescription database to combat Florida's illegal trade in painkillers. But with the future of the database now in doubt in Tallahassee, the state is not likely to accept the offer from the maker of OxyContin.

Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to do away with the database altogether, said he's not interested in the money.

Two years ago, the state Legislature overwhelmingly approved the creation of a statewide prescription drug monitoring program to try to curb an epidemic of drug overdoses and narcotics trafficking spawned by storefront pain clinics, most of them in South Florida. The database would allow physicians and investigators to identify "doctor shopping" patients who go from doctor to doctor to obtain prescriptions for potent painkillers such as oxycodone.

When lawmakers approved the prescription database in 2009, they set aside no state money for it. Instead, state officials established a private foundation to receive donations to cover the costs. Through December, the foundation had collected $500,000 in donations, while also qualifying for another $800,000 in federal grants.

But Scott and others in the state capital now want to kill the database, saying it's a needless intrusion on patients' privacy. Scott has already eliminated the office that was raising money for the database.

The threats from Tallahassee prompted Purdue Pharma — the maker of the well-known time-released painkiller containing oxycodone — to offer $1 million to help pay for the database. The money would cover the operating costs of the database for two years.

Alan Must, Purdue Pharma's vice president for government affairs, said Florida's database is needed to prevent pill trafficking nationwide. Florida has become the nation's leader in oxycodone sales, attracting carloads of drug dealers and couriers from Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and other states who come south to buy pills.

"We were so disappointed when we heard that it might go away," Must said. "We want this (database) to happen. It doesn't do us any good to have that illegal business in Florida."

Must said Wednesday he had not yet heard a response to the company's proposal. But Scott told reporters that he didn't want to rely on a short-term grant for fear that the database would require state funding later.

Thirty-four states now have prescription monitoring databases, and nine other states have approved them. Florida is the largest state without such a database.

But some lawmakers believe Florida doesn't need one.

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, has backed a bill scrapping the drug database and instead limiting doctors' power to dispense pills from their offices or clinics. Two years ago, the lawmakers in Cannon's chamber approved the database by a vote of 103-10.

Cannon's proposal faces opposition from the Florida Medical Association, many law enforcement agencies and from Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, who has vowed to protect the monitoring program.

"People are dying and families are destroyed by this abuse and we must do whatever we can to stop this scourge on our state," Haridopolos said in a written statement praising Purdue Pharma's offer.

The database had cleared another hurdle on Tuesday, when an administrative judge in Tallahassee dismissed a bid protest over the database contract award that had stalled the project since last year. But Scott gave no indication Wednesday that he would allow the state Department of Health to go forward with the software contract.

OxyContin, one of Purdue Pharma's signature drugs, is also among the most vulnerable to abuse. Ten years ago, the Florida Attorney General's Office investigated the company for its aggressive marketing of the painkiller, after a spate overdose deaths involving the drug.

In 2002, the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company agreed to pay $2 million to the state to settle the case. The money was supposed to pay for the cost of creating a prescription monitoring database. But the Legislature failed to approve the database for four years, and the agreement expired, said Jim Heins, Purdue Pharma's senior director of public affairs.

Instead, Heins said, the company donated less than $1 million to train Florida law enforcement officers in prescription diversion.

Times/Herald staff writer Michael C. Bender contributed to this report.

Gov. Rick Scott rejects $1M from OxyContin maker to fund drug database 03/09/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 8:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Georgia man drowned at SeaWorld Aquatica water park

    Public Safety

    ORLANDO — The water was only about 3 feet deep where Michael Stone, wearing a life vest, drowned in a water park ride at Aquatica this summer after apparently passing out face down, Orange County Sheriff's Office reports show.

  2. Bicyclist killed in hit-and-run crash on I-4 exit ramp in Tampa


    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating after a bicyclist was killed in a hit-and-run crash on an Interstate 4 exit ramp early Wednesday.

  3. Cookbook review: ‘Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook' is like a friend who always has a good recipe up her sleeve


    Cherry Bombe is a biannual indie magazine, weekly radio show/podcast and annual conference that celebrates women and food. And this month's release is a cookbook, a compilation of tried-and-true recipes from women who are famous both in the food world and other industries. Think model and cookbook author …

    By Kerry Diamond 
and Claudia Wu Clarkson Potter, 256 pages, $35
  4. Beautiful Hong Kong is pulsating with life and culture



    “Ah money, money, money!" the cabdriver exclaimed with no small sense of sarcasm in his Cantonese-accented English as he waved in the direction of the spectacular skyline of Hong Kong, a city that revels in its reputation as an international financial capital.

    The Hong Kong skyline, seen here from Victoria Peak, the highest point in the city at 1,800 feet, is a sight to behold.
  5. How to pick the perfect fall six-pack of beer

    Bars & Spirits

    With each fall comes another opportunity to assemble the perfect seasonal six-pack. Of course, this is often a six-pack in name only, as many of the latest seasonal brews come in large- format bottles (with a price tag to match). That just means that you'll need to assemble some friends and family to share with, and who …

     Abita Pecan Harvest Ale: As the name suggests, this toasty amber ale is brewed with roasted Louisiana pecans. The base beer is fairly neutral, allowing the sweet and nutty pecan character to stand front and center. It drinks not unlike a liquid pecan pie — though it’s a bit less sweet, thankfully.