[UPDATE] Cannon Wants Rx Database Repealed

By: Whitney Ray; David Royse, The News Service of Florida Email
By: Whitney Ray; David Royse, The News Service of Florida Email

[UPDATE] 3-8 8:27am --

David Royse, The News Service of Florida --

Speaker Dean Cannon said Monday that the House approach to fighting pain pill abuse won’t include a database to track prescription drugs, but instead will call for a ban on doctors selling drugs from their offices.

Calling for a repeal of a prescription drug tracking database, which was put into law last year but isn’t up and running yet, sets up a fight with the Senate where the president restated Monday his backing of the database.

Cannon said he has come to believe that the problem of prescription drug abuse needs to be thwarted farther up the chain – and that the House bill will instead outlaw the dispensing of prescription drugs in doctors’ offices as a way of fighting what many say is an epidemic of fraudulent script writing. Doing so, Cannon said, would “stop drug dealers who are masquerading as doctors.”

“Banning doctor-dealers is the only way to do it,” said Cannon, R-Winter Park, while speaking with reporters the day before the opening of the legislative session.

Cannon’s counterpart on the other side of the Capitol, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, meanwhile, said he will continue to push for the prescription drug database. The database, aimed at flagging people who get large amounts of prescription drugs by “doctor shopping,” has been tied down in a fight over the contract to run it.

Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, restated his belief that the problem of painkiller abuse is too urgent to abandon the database

"I don't think we're going to be moving in the opposite direction (from last year’s bill) in the Senate," Haridopolos said Monday.

In addition to Cannon and other top members in the House who oppose the database, Haridopolos will also be up against Gov. Rick Scott, who has urged lawmakers to repeal the law requiring it.

The state’s medical establishment, meanwhile, doesn’t want doctors to lose the right to dispense drugs, and supports the database.

“Dispensing physicians play an important role in the health care system,” Florida Medical Association General Counsel Jeff Scott said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the speaker to ensure that this important aspect of patient care continues, and that legitimate patients and physicians are not hurt by those who take advantage of the system.

“We believe the focus should be on the enforcement of the laws that were put on the books in the last two sessions, rather than punishing honest physicians who provide a valuable service for their patients,” Scott said.

The House proposal (PCB HHSC 11-03) would ban the dispensing of most controlled substances by physicians, and ban distributors from selling them to doctors. It would also allow the Department of Health to quarantine drug supplies for doctors until they’re disposed of, and calls for additional spending on law enforcement to enforce the ban.

The repeal of the database is contained in a separate proposed committee bill (PCB HHSC 11-04.)

Cannon said he knew some doctors would oppose his plan.

But, he said, “this plan isn’t about hurting doctors, it is about addressing the situation as a whole, and putting principle over profit to cut off the supply at the distribution point.”

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Whitney Ray --

Tallahassee, FL - Another reason sited for repealing the database is some people feeling it’s an invasion of privacy for the state to keep a record of their medication.

Florida loses seven people a day to prescription pain medication. In just two counties, Palm Beach and Broward, nine million pills were prescribed in one six month period last year.

A prescription drug database, created to stop people from going from doctor to doctor to load up on painkillers may never be up and running. Monday, House Speaker Dean Cannon announced legislation to nix the drug monitoring system.

“I think a focus on that alone is short-sighted. The PDMP tracks the problem not the solution,” said Cannon.

The house wants to instead focus on keeping doctors from selling painkillers from their office. The database repeal legislation would be accompanied by a bill that would ban the practice.

“There is a real problem we have in the state of Florida and that is we have drug dealers masquerading as doctors,” said Rep. Robert Schenck.

Eliminating the database is a top priority in the House, but it will be a tougher sell in the Senate.

The database started as legislation in the Senate last year. Monday, Senate President Mike Haridopolos told reporters his chamber won’t act on the repeal.

“I personally think the database is a good idea and given the overwhelming support the Senate had last year for it I don’t think we are going to be moving in the opposite direction here in the Senate,” said Haridopolos.

While the two chambers begin work to stop Florida pain clinics, surrounding states will be watching. They say Florida pain clinics are killing their residents.


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