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In its annual report on the state’s new prescription drug monitoring database, the Florida Department of Health recommends sharing Florida’s data with other states to hopefully further thwart prescription drug abuse.

Though the report notes that the database has so far proven successful, the department recommends that, once the database has been operational for one year, the surgeon general enter into an “interstate compact to provide a mechanism for state prescription monitoring programs to securely share prescription data to improve public health and safety.”

The interstate compact is intended to enhance efforts to conduct investigations by both law enforcement and regulatory agencies, and would likely come about as a result of legislation. According to the report, Florida would still retain its autonomy in monitoring prescription drug abuse within the state. A secure technology infrastructure would also need to be in place before interstate sharing could occur — to ensure that the data is transmitted securely.

Florida has become known as the epicenter of the country’s prescription drug epidemic, and was long known as the most populous state that did not have an operational prescription drug database until recently. According to the Department of Health report, states as far away as Maine suffer the consequences of the overprescription of pain pills in Florida; people travel from around the country to the state in order to procure them.

In testimony given to Congress last year, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear reported that 60 percent of the prescription drugs sold and consumed illegally in his state came from the “loosely regulated pain clinics in Florida.” Several other states, including North Carolina, Alabama and South Carolina, have also reported that significant numbers of prescriptions for controlled substances were written by Florida practitioners and dispensed in their states.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who sponsored the bill largely responsible for the implementation of the state’s prescription drug monitoring database, supports interstate sharing, but says the database’s use should first be made mandatory.

“The issue of interstate sharing was always in the back of Sen. Fasano’s mind,” says the senator’s aide, Greg Giordano. “The recommendation that the Legislature pass a bill to allow for interstate sharing is a logical next step to combat prescription drug abuse beyond Florida’s borders. At the same time, there remains a need to further strengthen the PDMP by mandating its usage by all doctors who prescribe controlled substances.”

Fasano recently filed a bill to “tweak” the pill mill legislation. If enacted, the measure would require that a prescriber consult the database and review the patient’s history, before writing prescriptions for certain drugs, and then make a notation on the face of that prescription, indicating that the consultation took place. If the prescription contains no such notation, the pharmacist filling it must also consult the database. The pharmacist would also be required to consult the database if he or she doesn’t already have a history with the patient being prescribed a controlled substance.

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