Florida Finally Greenlights Prescription Drug Monitoring Database

APRIL 12, 2011

Long-delayed Florida PDMP may soon help state efforts to fight abuse, misuse, and diversion of prescription pain medications and other drugs.

The Florida Times-Union reported Friday that Florida Surgeon General Frank Farmer has ordered officials to proceed with implementation of the state’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) designed to track and monitor the sale and distribution of oxycodone and other controlled substances.

The Florida PDMP had been opposed by Florida Governor Rick Scott over concerns regarding cost and privacy issues. Instead, Scott and others had backed a bill introduced by Republican state Rep. Robert Schenck that would have banned physicians from dispensing schedule II and III controlled substances, permitting only large, publicly traded pharmacies to dispense and sell the medications. Scott also recently proposed spending $800,000 on a statewide “strike force” aimed at beefing up law enforcement efforts against pill mills.

The Times-Union article said that the PDMP database had been “non-operational since it was first created due to a bid dispute. Ohio-based Optimum Technology sued the state because it said it was improperly denied a contract to run the program. In March, an administrative law judge ruled in the state’s favor.”

Schenck told the Miami Herald that he still opposes the PDMP, claiming that “While some may say it doesn’t cost the state anything, it’s going to cost millions of law-abiding citizens their privacy and they don’t deserve that, especially when research shows time and time again databases do not solve the problem… Until we cut the supply of these drugs off, we’re still going to have the epidemic we face.”

The Palm Beach Post reported that Alabama-based Health Information Design Inc. has been awarded the contract to design and manage the database.

According to the Post, Governor Scott remains “skeptical” about the utility of the PDMP. A spokesperson from the governor’s office said Scott is “concerned about patient privacy and wants to make sure that funding this thing never ends up on the backs of taxpayers. He still doesn't think it's the silver bullet that so many proponents claim.”

Under the terms of the PDMP, pharmacists and other dispensing professionals will be required to “enter prescriptions of addictive pain medications such as oxycodone into the database and doctors will have the option to look up patient information before prescribing such medications.” Law enforcement officials will have access to the information in the PDMP database, as well.

Although the PDMP is supported by many Florida state law enforcement officials and health care providers, even advocates have warned that the database alone will not solve the state’s pill mill and pain med abuse problems. Paul Sloan, president of the Florida Society of Pain Management Providers, told the Herald that he thinks it will be some time before the database is operational and producing results. Even then “the program has major loopholes. There’s no requirement that doctors check it before prescribing drugs. And they have a lengthy 15-day window to enter prescription information, ample time for doctor-shoppers to obtain large quantities of drugs before being detected.”

Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, has pledged up to $1 million to help fund the Florida PDMP. Purdue Pharma president and CEO John H. Stewart said that Purdue believes that “a prescription drug monitoring program in Florida can help curb prescription drug abuse in that state and in other states as well. It is our hope that this effort can become part of a larger public/private partnership to address the abuse and diversion of prescription medications.”

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