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Prescription drug database overhaul moving in Senate

The Senate Health Policy Committee approved changes to the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in the wake of concerns about patient privacy, despite objections from law enforcement officials that Senate Bill 7016 could weaken a tool intended to curb controlled substance abuses. Here is more from the News Service of Florida:

Investigators would have to get court orders to access the state's prescription-drug database under a measure approved by the Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday. The panel approved the proposal (SB 7016) by a 5-2 vote after hearing objections from law enforcement officials.

Having to get a judge's order before accessing the records in the database would give drug dealers a heads-up and make it harder to crack down on rogue doctors, doctor-shoppers and prescription forgers, according to Volusia County Sheriff's Office investigator David King, who specializes in prescription drug crimes.

But committee Chairman Aaron Bean, who sponsored the proposal, said he wants the database, known as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, to include extra security measures to protect patients' privacy. Bean's proposal would also steer $500,000 a year from excess funds in pharmacists' licensure fees to pay for the PDMP, something the pharmacists support. The program has struggled to find funding in the past because lawmakers prohibited state funds or money from drug manufacturers to be used to pay for it.

Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, conceded that the measure, which does not have a House companion, is still a work in progress. "We've got work to do but I believe it's a step in the right direction," he said.