After years of stalled efforts to stop prescription drug abuse and slow the state's growing pain clinic industry, the Florida Senate on Friday passed legislation to create a statewide prescription drug monitoring system to track those "doctor shopping" for addictive legal drugs.
The proposal by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, was approved 39-0 and would create a statewide database that would track the prescriptions written and filled for certain addictive medications.
Doctors, pharmacists -- and, in some cases, law enforcement -- could then use that information to look for people coming to the state to "doctor shop," a term used for those who go from doctor to doctor to get prescriptions for addictive medications.
Thirty-eight other states already have prescription drug tracking databases. But privacy concerns have stalled previous attempts to create on in Florida, making Florida the largest state without one.
Investigators say that has made the state a prime destination for drug dealers and addicts from around the nation.
"People come from all over the country and they line up outside pain management clinics, so they can go out and get prescriptions filled and sell them on the streets," said Fasano, citing the results of a recent Miami Herald investigation. "If someone is doctor shopping, we want to stop it.
The proposal now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. However, some members in that chamber have expressed concerns about creating a state-run database, a sentiment echoed by some senators Friday.
"I absolutely agree with the goal of this bill, but to give some bureaucrat in Tallahassee access to your medical records, it scares the heck out of me," said Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg. "So I would urge that we are careful and take every available step to protect privacy.
Fasano said that for those with health insurance, those companies already track prescription info and the current proposal targets those paying cash for medications.