Florida Takes Another Stab at Prescription Drug Tracking Database

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Florida officials next year will launch a campaign for a statewide computer database to track prescriptions for narcotics and antidepressants to help curb prescription drug abuse, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

The state Legislature has rejected the drug database proposal for the past six years. Opponents of the system say it could jeopardize patient privacy if hackers or others gained access.

Meanwhile, supporters -- which include judges, prosecutors, physicians and family groups -- say they plan to increase their lobbying efforts next year because prescription drugs have become the leading cause of overdoses in the state. Florida is the largest state without a prescription drug database.

If the state Legislature rejects the proposal one again, database advocates say they will push to create a pilot system in Broward and possibly Palm Beach counties.

State Rep. Jack Seiler (D), who will sponsor database legislation, said the biggest barrier is cost. He noted that it will be difficult to find $2.3 million to create the database and that Purdue Pharma's offer to supply the system expired in 2004 (LaMendola, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/10). Purdue Pharma, the maker of painkiller OxyContin, would have contributed about $2 million to the database as part of an agreement with the state (iHealthBeat, 3/15/04).

Broward County commissioners last week said they did not want to pay for a local pilot program. A pilot program has not yet been proposed in Palm Beach County, but several officials said they would explore the idea, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Database supporters are working to obtain federal and private grants to cover the cost of the system, Joel Kaufman, director of the United Way's Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse, said.

E-Prescribing

In addition, the Legislature this year assigned the Agency for Health Care Administration to encourage physicians to adopt electronic prescribing systems to better track prescriptions.

Christopher Sullivan, head of the agency's health IT, said fewer than 10% of doctors use e-prescriptions, which is not enough to detect prescription drug abuse.

Still, even if every physician used e-prescriptions, the system would still miss some prescriptions not covered by insurance and paid for with cash, Bill Janes, the governor's drug control chief, said (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/10).


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