State ‘pill mill’ legislation moves forward
The Florida House of Representatives passed its version of the pill mill legislation Thursday in an nearly unanimous vote.
House Bill 7095 passed 116-1, with Rep. John Tobia, R-Brevard, dissenting.
“I’m thrilled that we passed it,” Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, said. “Florida has established a reputation throughout the country as being the state to come to get illegal drugs.”
With the bill, the state is sending the message that Florida not only wants to keep its residents safe, but that the state will not permit illegal drug trades.
“It’ll mean that our citizens will be safer because the access to prescription drugs will be limited to those who truly have a prescription need,” he said. “As opposed to the current system where drugs are being dispensed in many cases illegally.”
The bill keeps in place plans for a Prescription Drugs Monitoring Program or PDMP, which would track what doctors are prescribing and what pharmacies are distributing. It also speeds up the time in which data must be entered in the database from 15 days to seven days.
“Generally speaking, it means that Florida law enforcement are going to be able to more easily identify people who are doctor shopping and more easily identify doctors who are overprescribing, and stop them,” Jennifer Krell Davis, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said.
Attorney General Pam Bondi has been a proponent of the pill mill legislation. In early February, she announced a strategy to address the pill mill issue — a series of legislative recommendations for the upcoming legislative session.
“Florida is the epicenter of prescription drug diversion,” Davis said. “People come from all over the country to get drugs from Florida because we don’t have the legislation in place.”
Under the House bill, the criminal penalty for a burglary with the intent to obtain controlled substances is enhanced. It also requires pharmacists to report fraudulent prescriptions of controlled substances.
The bill strengthens the penalties for doctors and osteopaths who violate standards of care when prescribing controlled substances to a mandatory six-month suspension, and requires physicians to physically exam a patient prior to prescribing narcotics.
“Those are elements that she has been advocating for,” Davis said. “She wants to make sure law enforcement has the tools they need to stop this crisis.”
The bill also bans physicians from dispensing schedule II and III narcotics directly to a patient.
“Today, we are one step closer to giving law enforcement and regulators the tools they need to combat pill mills and prescription drug abuse in Florida,” Bondi wrote in a prepared statement.
The House’s companion bill, Senate Bill 818, passed its last committee stop.
The Senate now can either take up the House bill or the Senate bill.
“They’ll pick whatever they want to be the primary vehicle,” Davis said.
According to Davis, seven out of 10 people in Florida are dying each day from prescription drugs.