TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A bill that changes the state's prescription drug tracking system passed a House panel Tuesday, but the sponsor had to settle for two out of the three modifications he wanted.
Rep. Mike Fasano's bill originally would have required doctors and pharmacists to check the now-voluntary system, which is a database that monitors who's getting prescriptions in Florida.
The idea is that doctors and pharmacists can use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to spot bogus patients getting too many drugs.
But doctors' groups told Rep. Ronald "Doc" Renuart, a physician and Ponte Vedra Beach Republican, that the requirement would be too onerous on busy doctors. He successfully offered an amendment that stripped the requirement out of the bill.
"I think it's important (but) I don't believe in mandating it," he said of the system, which takes about 30 seconds to check a patient's prescription history.
The House Health and Human Services committee OK'd the bill (HB 831) by a 16-2 vote. Republican Reps. John Tobia of Melbourne Beach and John Wood of Haines City opposed the measure.
Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican and early champion of the nearly three-year-old tracking system, said he hopes the House eventually accepts a Senate proposal that requires checking the database at least for new patients.
"People are doctor shopping, and the first line of defense is the doctor," Fasano said after the meeting.
The current version of the House bill keeps two other changes: It reduces the requirement to enter prescriptions into the database to two days from seven days and it would allow pharmaceutical companies to help fund the program. It currently gets no state money.
The system, which went live in September 2011, was designed to help crack down on the "pill mills" selling mostly painkillers to drug dealers and addicts. Law enforcement officials have said the inability to track prescriptions contributed to Florida becoming ground zero for prescription drug abuse.
Rep. Joe Gibbons, a Hallandale Beach Democrat, said the parking lot of pill mills in Broward County once were filled with cars bearing Kentucky license plates. "People would come from all over because it was so easy to get prescription drugs there," he said.
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