Fight looming over future of prescription drug database

Feb 24, 2011

The following article was published in The Florida Current on February 24, 2011:

Fight looming over future of prescription drug database

By Kim MacQueen 

A legislative fight could be brewing over the future of the state’s prescription drug database — even though the database is still not operational.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos earlier this week forcefully said that the database was needed. But now House leaders — some of whom opposed the database at the time of its initial approval — are suggesting that they will move against it. They appear ready to side with Gov. Rick Scott, who has called the database an invasion of privacy and earlier this month recommended the program be scuttled.

After a presentation by Department of Health officials on the proposed statewide prescription drug database to the House Health and Human Services Committee Thursday, House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera said that the database doesn’t appear to be needed.

“Prescription drug abuse must be stopped at the source,” he said. “We must work to prevent bad doctors from dispensing indefensible amounts of dangerous medical drugs, not utilize another big government program to penalize citizens for the legal use of prescription drugs.”

Lopez-Cantera added that “you should go after the people committing the crimes.”

House members spent two hours talking about prescription drugs, including whether or not the use of databases in other states has been successful.

Florida’s database had share of its problems even before it ran into opposition by Scott and Lopez-Cantera. Two companies are currently feuding over the contract to develop and run the database.

The proposed database is supposed to help Florida keep track of controlled substances designated as Schedule II, III and IV drugs, which includes drugs such as codeine, methadone, amphetamines, anabolic steroids and ketamine. The Republican-led Legislature authorized the creation of the database in 2009 in response to reports that South Florida has become a haven for pill mills.

Right now it would take legislative action to repeal the law that sanctioned the creation of the database. There’s no state money being used for the database, although Haridopolos has said he is open to the possibility.

Haridopolos on Wednesday said he will fight to keep the database.

“I think we need to make a vigilant stand and lead and make sure that Florida is no longer the pill mill capital of America,” he said.