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Schenck's revised pill mill bill passes committee after getting slammed for hurting small businesses

A plan to combat the state's precription drug abuse epidemic by limiting dispensing of narcotics to big pharmacies faced criticism Wednesday in the House Judiciary committee.

Rep. Robert Schenck originally filed a bill that would allow all pharmacies to dispense, but prevent doctors from dispensing. That raised concerns that unscrupulous doctors or pain clinic operators would simply open pharmacies to skirt the law. So Schenck presented an amended bill to allow dispensing only by pharmacies owned by publicly traded companies, those with more than $100 million of taxable assets in Florida, and those that have been continuously permitted for 10 years. He also increased from $1 million to $3 million funding for a law enforcement crackdown.

Schenck displayed extreme confidence in his approach, saying: "Once this bill is signed into the law this problem goes away."

But folks in the pharmacy industry and some committee members complained that the bill will hurt small businesses. 

"This really punishes the mom and pops throughout the entire state," said Richard Steinberg, D-Miami Beach.

And Lori Weems, general counsel for the Florida Pharmacy Association, said the bill would prevent pharmacies from prescribing non-narcotices, such as Ritalin and drugs to treat epilepsy.  "This is the first time I can recall community pharmracies being targeted as the cause of this crisis," she said.

Others, though, said the crisis has become so severe that it's important to take an extreme stance.

"I will err on the side of perhaps being too agressive in attacking pill mils because up until now we've been far too lenient," said Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar.

Also on hand to support the bill: Bonnie Rogers, public safety policy coordinatory for Gov. Rick Scott.

HB7095 passed with an 11-6 vote. This was its last committee stop.

 

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