A statewide prescription drug monitoring program is finally set to go live today — years after it was first championed by state legislators and former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Shortly after taking office, Gov. Rick Scott was vocal about his belief that a state prescription drug monitoring database would be an infringement on the privacy of Floridians, and too costly to implement. Eventually he (and other critics) came around, throwing their support behind the program, which aims to thwart Florida’s notorious prescription drug problem.

According to state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, a vocal proponent of the database, the prescription drug monitoring system is “perhaps the single most important patient safety program to launch in recent memory.”

The state of Florida has become notorious for the ease with which prescription drugs can be obtained. At one point, so-called “pill mills” outnumbered McDonalds in the state. Florida sees an average of seven deaths per day due to overdoses of prescription drugs.

According to a Fasano legislative aide, the new database will cut that number significantly. “After many years and many obstacles to overcome, the database is going live at a time when it is needed most,” says Fasano aide Greg Giordano. “Even though we will never know the number of lives that will be saved, we will know that many lives will not be lost as long as the database is consulted by every doctor every time he or she considers writing a controlled substance prescription.”

The database will track all controlled substance prescriptions that are filled in Florida, and contain information such as the name and dosage of the controlled substance, where it was filled and who wrote it. The database will also assist law enforcement in curbing the proliferation of “doctor-shopping,” in which a patient sees several different physicians to obtain multiple prescriptions of a certain drug.

Both the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association have also thrown their support behind the database.

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