Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Opinion

Editorial: Don't undermine prescription drug database

Continuing Florida's unprecedented assault on illegal prescription drug use that has curbed deaths and addictions should be an easy embrace for state lawmakers. But rather than build on that success — or even maintain the effort — leaders in Tallahassee continue to undermine a key tool in the battle, the prescription drug database to curb doctor shopping.

The reluctance to embrace the database is disappointing. Gov. Rick Scott's 2013-14 budget proposal included no money to operate the database, and the Legislature has shown no inclination to do otherwise. Without an influx of private contributions or state financing, the 18-month-old database faces an uncertain future because of the $500,000 annual operating cost.

Nor have lawmakers ever been willing to fully exploit the tool by requiring doctors to access it before writing prescriptions for certain highly addictive drugs to ensure their patients aren't just addicts or dealers stockpiling prescriptions. Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who had hoped to pass the physicians' mandate this year, is expected to retreat on that point today in the House Health and Human Services Committee in hopes of keeping other key provisions alive. Specifically, Fasano seeks to overturn an unreasonable restriction from 2011 that barred pharmaceutical companies from helping to pay for the database. Essentially, Fasano is exchanging a chance to increase the program's effectiveness for the opportunity to just keep it operating with private dollars.

The real question should be why such machinations are necessary. The latest numbers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show immediate and laudable results in the state's battle against prescription drug abuse. Notably, the number of oxycodone deaths dropped 29 percent during the first six months of 2012 compared with the second half of 2011. Drug deaths attributed to methadone and hydrocodone also showed double-digit declines.

The encouraging numbers follow legislative and law enforcement remedies that targeted unscrupulous doctors dispensing highly addictive painkillers to cash-paying patients at storefront clinics dubbed pill mills. Still, more works remains. In the first six months of 2012, drugs were present or the cause of death in 4,126 people in Florida, a 4.7 percent drop over 2011, but prescription pills continued to claim more lives than heroin, cocaine or other illicit drugs.

The state shouldn't ease up now. Legislators need to ensure adequate funding for the database and the state should require physicians and other practitioners to check it before writing new drug orders. Despite the recent advances, prescription drug abuse remains a public health priority for Florida.

Comments
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
PolitiFact Florida: Gov. Rick Scott’s Full Flop on oil drilling

PolitiFact Florida: Gov. Rick Scott’s Full Flop on oil drilling

Gov. Rick Scott met with a member of President Donald Trump’s administration and struck a deal to remove Florida from a list of states proposed for more offshore oil drilling."As a result of our interest in making sure that there’s no drilling here, ...
Published: 01/15/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Leonard Pitts Jr.: Dr. King’s words still ring true, 61 years on

A few words on the difficulty of voting while black.As we mark what would have been his 89th birthday, it seems fitting to recall that Martin Luther King spoke to that difficulty in a 1957 speech whose words ring relevant 61 years later. "All types o...
Published: 01/14/18
Romano: How long before you take a selfie in front of pier art?

Romano: How long before you take a selfie in front of pier art?

You go to Harvard to study art. You move to Hong Kong and Bali to further your education. You are invited by the Fulbright Scholar Program to lecture about art in India.Finally, you return to the United States where you are asked to produce a sculptu...
Published: 01/13/18
Updated: 01/15/18
Trump’s visits increase terrorism risk, Florida County says

Trump’s visits increase terrorism risk, Florida County says

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - President Donald Trump’s frequent visits to South Florida make the area a high-risk target for terrorism, one that justifies more money from the federal government, Palm Beach County’s top law enforcement agency says.The Palm ...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18
Column: A bad idea on immigration

Column: A bad idea on immigration

Immigration has become one of the most polarizing issues of our day. But it is worth remembering that this century opened with a tale of family and migration that was as contentious as many of the stories that punctuate our current debate: the case o...
Published: 01/12/18