Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Politics

Tweak to Florida drug database clears House panel

TALLAHASSEE — A bill that changes the state's prescription drug tracking system passed a House panel Tuesday, but the sponsor had to settle for two out of the three modifications he wanted.

Rep. Mike Fasano's bill originally would have required doctors and pharmacists to check the now-voluntary system, which is a database that monitors who's getting prescriptions in Florida.

The idea is that doctors and pharmacists can use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to spot patients scheming to get too many drugs.

But doctors' groups told Rep. Ronald "Doc" Renuart, a physician and Ponte Vedra Beach Republican, that the requirement would be too onerous on busy doctors. He successfully offered an amendment last week that stripped the requirement out of the bill.

"I think it's important (but) I don't believe in mandating it," he said of the system, which takes about 30 seconds to check a patient's prescription history.

The House Health and Human Services committee okayed the bill (HB 831) by a 16-2 vote. The bill now goes to the House floor.

Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican and early champion of the nearly 3-year-old tracking system, said he hopes the House eventually accepts a Senate proposal that requires checking the database at least for new patients.

"People are doctor shopping, and the first line of defense is the doctor," Fasano said after the meeting.

The current version of the House bill keeps two other changes: It reduces the requirement to enter prescriptions into the database to two days from seven days and it would allow pharmaceutical companies to help fund the program.

The system, which went live in September 2011, was designed to help crack down on the "pill mills" selling mostly painkillers to drug dealers and addicts. Law enforcement officials have said the inability to track prescriptions contributed to Florida's burgeoning prescription drug abuse.

Rep. Joe Gibbons, a Hallandale Beach Democrat, said the parking lot of pill mills in Broward County once were filled with cars with Kentucky license plates. "People would come from all over because it was so easy to get prescription drugs there," he said.

Rep. Cary Pigman, an Avon Park Republican and emergency room doctor, lamented the loss of the requirement for doctors to check the database before writing prescriptions. Last weekend, he said, he wrote a painkiller prescription, only to later get a call from the pharmacist who checked the database. The patient had gotten a prescription for 100 pills the Friday before, he was told.

"I didn't take that 15 seconds I should have," he said. "We physicians … often need a kick in the pants."

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