Florida pharmacists, doctors and law enforcement favor a statewide prescription drug monitoring program to help curb crime, save lives and protect patients from inadvertent harm. Some state reps fear invasion of patient privacy, overlooking not only that information would be available only to doctors and police working active cases, but also the obvious fiscal benefits of reducing demand for more publicly funded and private Florida a drug detox facilities.
A bill to establish a prescription drug monitoring program introduced by Sen. Jeff Atwater, and another one sponsored by Rep. Jack Seiler, aren’t progressing well in Tallahassee. Their proposals would create a pilot program in Broward County, and see the Department of Health adopt a statewide program by 2010. Prescription drug monitoring programs are primarily funded through federal grants from the Department of Justice, so the cost to local taxpayers is minimal. By reducing prescription drug abuse, a prescription drug monitoring program could also reduce the clamor for funds to establish more Florida drug detox centers.
A prescription drug monitoring program involves a computer database of prescriptions for commonly abused and addictive drugs. Maintained by doctors and pharmacists, it helps ensure patients haven’t already been prescribed an addictive drug by another doctor, or a drug that could inadvertently cause a dangerous drug interaction with a new prescription.
A prescription drug monitoring program also leads to a reduction in the crime of “doctor shopping” — addicts going from doctor to doctor trying to get prescriptions to support their addictions. Entries in the database prevent multiple prescriptions to the same person. Doctor shopping, a major source of addictions and illegal drug activities, also places well-meaning doctors at unfair ethical and legal risks, and contributes to the overall drug-related crime risks all citizens face daily. Prescription drug addictions too often lead to robbery and violent crime, and the social costs of law enforcement, criminal justice, injuries and deaths and overloaded Florida drug detox facilities.
According to Florida’s “drug czar” Bill Janes, doctor shopping is increasing in the state, and drugs obtained by doctor-shopping are reaching the black market. Florida drug detox centers are treating more cases of prescription drug addiction than ever before for addictive painkillers such as oxycodone, OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Lortab and others, often obtained illegally.
But painkillers aren’t the only problem prescription drugs frequently seen at Florida drug detox centers. Psychiatric drugs, including anti-anxiety, antidepressant and anti-psychotic drugs, are also proving to be a plague on society, and are all too often the problem drugs requiring treatment at Florida detox centers. Like painkillers, psych drugs are frequently obtained from unwitting doctors by doctor-shopping addicts, and like painkillers, are the object of pharmacy break-ins and gun-point robberies across the state.
More than two dozen states have prescription drug monitoring programs in operation, and are already seeing benefits. Nearly a dozen more have enacted such programs, and are ramping up to operational status. In Florida, drug detox facilities have seen a significant rise in the numbers of people seeking detox for prescription drugs, and more than 2,000 people die every year from overdoses and complications from prescription drugs, many of them teenagers and young adults. A prescription drug monitoring program could help ease the pressure on communities, counties and the state to provide additional Florida drug detox centers to meet the escalating prescription drug epidemic.
And although we haven’t done a survey, it would seem fair to assume that Florida drug detox practitioners — the professionals called on every day to provide a drug detox program to whoever needs it regardless of the circumstances — would favor such a program, too.