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 Debate rages on as lawmakers tackle pill abuse issue

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PostSubject: Debate rages on as lawmakers tackle pill abuse issue   Sun 13 Mar 2011, 9:13 pm

Debate rages on as lawmakers tackle pill abuse issue

Both sides are gunning for the same happy ending — extinguishing the prescription pill abuse problem in Florida.

One side thinks a regulatory pill database is the prudent choice. The other thinks taking privileges away from doctors is the more progressively effective approach.

The leaders on both sides represent Hernando County residents in the Florida Legislature.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has publicly supported and advocated for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which includes a statewide pill database. He's proposed legislation in this session that would make Florida's program more in line with other states.

He also was to increase regulations to put an end to one-stop pain management clinics, known as pill mills.

"At this point, we don't know the future of that (bill)," said Fasano spokesman Greg Giordano.

State Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, is the chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee. He wants to do away with the PDMP and make it so doctors can't dispense oxycodone, methadone and other narcotics to their patients.

He has proposed two bills that, if passed, would accomplish both objectives.

Both Fasano and Schenck have their allies, but the latter appears to have momentum on his side — and backing from both Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon and Gov. Rick Scott.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has offered to donate $1 million to assist in the implementation of the drug database, which has stalled as a result of legal bickering among bidders.

News reports have shown Scott is disinterested in the donation. The same goes for Schenck. Both men already have taken steps to eliminate the state agency tasked with raising money for the database.

Schenck has said the database only tracks the problem. He thinks more needs to be done to stop the supply.

Last week, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis held a media conference announcing the arrests of 53 people in connection with a pill-mill scheme that was orchestrated out of a Spring Hill pharmacy.

He was asked by a reporter whether he had any thoughts about Scott's proposal to eliminate the database.

Nienhuis, who is close friends with Fasano, chose his words carefully.

The sheriff said he understood Scott's desire to keep costs down and prevent an "invasion of privacy" that might come from a database.

He also said he was "not sure" whether a database would have made a difference in his agency's investigation.

"This was a bad pharmacy that probably wouldn't have kept accurate records," Nienhuis said.

Schenck has said a pill database is too much of a "Big-Brother" concept. He also thinks it relies too heavily on an honor system. If a doctor is doling out narcotics at a high rate, he or she is not likely to input accurate data, he said.

Fasano said he was "very disappointed" after learning Schenck's bill to eliminate the PDMP passed his committee with little discussion or resistance.

The program passed overwhelmingly in 2009. Now it's in serious jeopardy.

Fasano said he was "saddened" the proposal to eliminate the PDMP has garnered so much support from fellow Republicans.

On Saturday, The Tampa Tribune published a guest column from Rep. John Legg, R-New Port Richey, who is the speaker pro tempore of the Florida House of Representatives.

He stated the PDMP was "well intended" when it was passed two years ago, but it "will not stop the problem."

Legg said studies have shown states with databases have not seen decreases in prescription drug-related deaths.

TBO/Hernando Today


"I will let yesterday end so that today can begin."
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