Florida's much-touted prescription database seeing little use

A year ago, Florida lawmakers approved a program that would require pharmacists to enter pain prescription information into a statewide database. Supporters said this would be a powerful weapon against prescription drug abuse for the state, which was struggling in a fight against "doctor shopping" and prescription drug crimes.

The resulting Prescription Drug Monitoring program was praised by law enforcement officials and anti-drug activists. The database was intended to drastically cut prescription fraud and drug abuse in the state by helping doctors separate legitimate patients from drug abusers. But the program has run into a major snag: doctors aren't using it.

A recent investigation found that most medical practitioners in Florida have never used the database or consult it very rarely. Prescribers consulted the database before writing only two percent of the state's 48 million prescriptions for controlled substances.

The law that established the database failed to make it mandatory for medical professionals who prescribe addictive prescription drugs. While many of these doctors acknowledge that it is a valuable tool, they have no legal obligation to do so. Doctors are busy people and searching through a database for a patient may stand between them and their next appointment.

Adding to the program's problems is an unclear financial future. The long-term fate of the database is unclear as the government struggles to fund it. Currently, the database only has enough funding to run through June 2013. This money comes from a combination of federal grants and private donations. Between the database's financial problems and lack of enforcement, Florida's law enforcement officials may need to look elsewhere for help in the War on Drugs.

Floridians who are accused of a prescription drug crime are entitled to a vigorous defense to protect their rights in the criminal justice system. If you are accused of a crime, consider consulting with a criminal defense attorney.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Florida drug database intended to save lives is barely used by doctors," John Woodrow Cox, Oct. 7,2012

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