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St. Petersburg, Florida

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Don Greiwe
Don Greiwe
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The New Drug Monitoring System – What’s Happening Behind the Scenes?

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Last month Governor Charlie Crist (R. – FL) signed the new “pill mill haven” bill into law. The new law is an effort to shed south Florida’s reputation of being a haven for the prescription drug black market. It will create a new state-wide database track prescriptions of controlled substances designated as Schedule II, III and IV drugs, which includes drugs such as codeine, methadone, amphetamines, anabolic steroids and ketamine.

The new system acts as a deterrent to traffickers, unethical pain doctors, and addicts alike. It also assists law enforcement to more efficiently monitor the market – and in some cases investigators will be able to obtain prescription drug records.

Supporters of the bill see the bill as a good “first step” in curbing what has become a crisis in Florida. A total of 7,741 Floridians died of drug-related deaths in 2006, 7,573 in 2005, and 7,128 in 2004. Health officials say deaths from prescription drugs now triple deaths from illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Some top house republicans – including house majority leader Adam Hasner, wrote a letter to Crist urging him to veto the bill (which he did not). They wrote concerned that sensitive information would wind up in the hands of criminals and terrorists. Yes, you read right – Mr. Hasner used terrorism as an excuse to not monitor the prescription drug black market. More reasonable critics of the bill cite the 15 day waiting period to report and a lack of strict identification requirements as inadequacies of the new law.

Despite a handful of opponents, the bill passed resoundingly by a vote of 103 to 10. The bill, which has come before the House numerous times in the past, had been shot down every time over patient privacy. It seems peculiar how a law that had been so overwhelmingly defeated has now been overwhelmingly passed. And apparently Purdue Pharma, makers of Oxycontin, is going to help fund the new database.

With the sudden about-face position of the state legislature, and the willingness of Purdue Pharma to voluntarily fund something that hurts their bottom line, one has to wonder: Is this a noble attempt by the drug manufacturer to curb the black market that their own product is prevalent in, or is something else going on?