Florida legislation hopes to shut down 'pill mills' dispensing high volumes of addictive pain medications

May 10, 2011
Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - May/June 2011,

Bill brings state into national efforts at prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), and adds requirements to pharmacists and distributors

With complete unanimity in both its upper and lower houses, the Florida legislature passed a bill, HB 7095; it now awaits Governor Rick Scott’s signature and then will go into effect on July 1. Florida, which its own legislators have called the “pill mill capital of world,” has been plagued by marginally legal pain management clinics that routinely dispense high volumes of addictive pain meds (including opioids, benzodiazeprines and barbiturates). The pill mills attracted a high volume of patients from out of state, who would return to their home states and sell the drugs illegally. In 2009, state law enforcement reported that nine people a day were dying from pain med overdoses.

All this did not prevent Gov. Scott and some legislators from attempting to derail the state’s efforts to organize a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), similar to that in effect in 30 other states, to prevent patients from doctor- and pharmacy-shopping to load up on prescriptions. Scott expressed a concern that patient privacy was at risk, and that the state couldn’t afford to fund the PDMP. The new bill both overcomes those objections, and seems to go as far as legislation can in restricting pain-med prescribing to pharmacies associated with hospitals, or to large, publicly held pharmacy chains and care facilities.

The bill mandates certifications for physicians and pharmacists; increases penalties for violations; and establishes the framework by which a PDMP will operate and how it will divulge prescribing information. Pharmacists are obligated to report any suspect attempted acquisition of pain meds. Wholesalers servicing the state (both local and out-of-state) are obliged to maintain “suspicious ordering” system reviews and report trend data to the state, and all parties are pressed to make use of DEA’s Constrolled Substances Ordering System (CSOS). Data are to be reported to the PDMP within seven days.

Florida’s legislation meshes neatly with the federal call to action, “Epidemic,” that was published in April. That multi-agency effort hopes to both propose new legislation, and to coordinate agencies activities.