Prescription Monitor Program Funding Running Out

While the state is gaining ground in its war on prescription drug abuse a new crisis is surfacing. Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Database (which is being credited with lowering the number of pill overdoses) is running out of money and without a change in state law it may have to be shutdown.

A weapon in the war on pills, Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Database has helped lower the number of Oxycodone overdoses by 17 percent.

“We’re working as a team to stop this and to stop the embarrassment of being known as the Oxy-Express”, Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Overall prescription drug deaths fell by six percent according to 2011 statistics released this week. The stats come one year after the database was launched.

Pharmacists are required to update the database every time they sell painkillers. Doctors can then check the database before writing a prescription to make sure their patient isn’t buying more medicine than they need.

Dr. John Armstrong, Florida Surgeon General, “There have been more than 55 million narcotic prescriptions that have been uploaded into the database.”

But the database could need help from state lawmakers. It’s running out of money and there’s a debate over how to fund it next year. The database is surviving on donations and a waning federal grant. Because of initial opposition from Governor Rick Scott, state funding for the database is banned.

“I don’t support the database. I believe it’s an invasion of privacy.”
That was Scott in early 2011. Now he’s changing his tune.

Reporter: Would you be amenable to changing the law to allow the state to contribute to it?
Scott: Absolutely.

It costs about half a million dollars a year to run the database. Scott and Florida’s Surgeon General are still hoping donations will come through to keep the system running, but if they can’t raise the money, state lawmakers may have to step in and save it.

There is enough money to run the database through the end of the fiscal year, which means the issue will likely be before state lawmakers this spring.

Besides the funding debate, some lawmakers also have concerns about patient privacy. Here’s what we’ve learned about that: In one year, doctors have accessed the database 1.2 million times, pharmacists 1.3 million and police officers have used the database 20-thousand times. So if you fill a pain pill prescription in Florida, quite a few people will know.

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