Best Evidence Analyses and Commentary

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Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) Begins
Marks Continuation of Struggle Against Prescription Drug Abuse
Alan Sawatsky, PharmD Candidate 2012

The new law requiring Florida practitioners to track dispensing of controlled substances took effect on September 1st, 2011.[1]   This law reflects the recent development of legislation attempting to curtail Florida’s widely-known problem with controlled substances.  Florida will now join 35 other states which already have fully operational and mostly successful PDMPs.[2]   Beginning in September, dispensing pharmacists will be required weekly to send controlled substance dispensing information for schedule II, III, and IV drugs to the state for input into the database.  Sometime in October, prescribers will be able to obtain access to a patient’s history of controlled substance dispensing information, with the hopes of preventing future overprescribing and subsequent abuse.  It is important to realize, however, that physicians are not required by law to use the database before prescribing.[1]

Florida’s controlled substance abuse problem is no secret within the medical community.  As a primary example, Florida physicians prescribe more than ten times the popularly abused drug oxycodone than every other state in the nation combined.[3]   The creation of this database aims to give prescribers access to a patient’s controlled substance dispensing history and prevent overprescribing.

One of the primary concerns with this new legislation is privacy.  The database by law will contain the full name, address, and date of birth of the patient as well as the name, strength, and quantity of the controlled substance dispensed.[4]   The use of a statewide electronic database filled with confidential dispensing and prescribing information could become a tempting target for hackers, and this is not a baseless concern.  It was reported in May of 2009 that hackers had broken into Virginia’s prescription drug monitoring database, encrypted the information and held more than 8 million patient records “hostage” for a 10 million dollar ransom.[5]   Considering the magnitude of Florida’s controlled substance use, one would expect the database to be even more expansive, and thus a security breach could be catastrophic in regards to patient privacy and confidentiality. 

Overall the success of this legislation will be dependent upon its utilization by prescribers.  As they are not by law required to use the database, it remains to be seen whether or not the PDMP will have a real impact on controlled substance abuse in Florida.

 

References

1.       Palm Beach Post News Online.  Law requiring Florida pharmacists to send drug information to state starts today.  Found at:  http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/state/law-requiring-florida-pharmacists-to-send-drug-information-1808851.html.  Accessed 01 September 2011.

2.       United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control website.  State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.  Found at:  http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/faq/rx_monitor.htm.  Accessed 01 September 2011.

3.       NPR.  The ‘Oxy Express’:  Florida’s Drug Abuse Epidemic.  Found at:  http://www.npr.org/2011/03/02/134143813/the-oxy-express-floridas-drug-abuse-epidemic.  Accessed 06 September 2011.

4.       Online Sunshine, Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislature.  The 2011 Florida Statutes, 893.055 Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.  Found at:  http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0800-0899/0893/Sections/0893.055.html.  Accessed 01 September 2011.

5.       The Washington Post.  Hackers Break into Virginia Health Professions Database, Demand Ransom.  Found at:  http://voices.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2009/05/hackers_break_into_virginia_he.html.  Accessed 06 September 2011.


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