More about Prescription Monitoring Programs

In October, Florida’s prescription monitoring program finally became functional. This means doctors in Florida (finally) can go to this database to see if their patients are being prescribed controlled substances by other doctors. The program isn’t mandatory. Physicians don’t have to use the system if they don’t want to do so. But in my opinion, if a doctor is prescribing controlled substances to a patient, particularly in Florida, it would be sloppy medical practice NOT to use this program. Doctors who are truly interested in indentifying doctor-shopping drug seekers will use this database.

Florida’s prescription monitoring program has been a long time coming. If you read this blog frequently, you’ll remember I was highly critical of Florida’s Governor Scott’s initial reluctance to allow a prescription drug monitoring program. His reluctance mystified me, given the tremendous numbers of pain pills being prescribed and dispensed in Florida. The pain pills prescribed and dispensed by Florida’s pill mills didn’t stay in Florida. They were exported north to states like Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. This occurred so commonly that it became known as the “Flamingo Express.”

At present, only a few states are still dragging their feet about getting an operational program. As of now, only Missouri and the District of Columbia don’t have prescription monitoring programs, and have no plans to start one. (It seems odd that D.C., where lawmakers started the push for prescription monitoring programs, doesn’t already have a functioning program.)

In recent news reports, Florida’s Governor Scott said he felt the new laws that prevent physicians from both prescribing and dispensing pain pills are an important part of reducing Florida’s pain pill problem. Prior to these new laws, physicians were able to both prescribe and dispense opioid pain pills. This created a financial incentive for unprincipled doctors to prescribe opioids, since they then sold these opioids to their patient for more than the average pharmacy price. This practice was common in Florida’s pill mills. In 2010, Florida physicians bought 89% of all the oxycodone sold to U.S. medical practitioners.

In these recent news reports, around 80 doctors have had their licenses suspended due to their prescribing habits. These doctors often prescribed large amounts of opioids without demonstrating a clear need and without taking precautions to assure the “patients” they saw weren’t abusing the drugs.

 I believe this has already led to a relative scarcity of pain pills available on the black market in our state of North Carolina, and a subsequent increase in price. For the last month, the opioid treatment program where I work has seen a sharp increase in the numbers of addicts entering treatment. These patients say the same thing when I ask why they decided to seek help now: they’re spending too much money on pills, to the point of financial ruin, and pills are more difficult to find. One addict said, “I can’t find pills like I could. And when I do, I can’t afford them anyway.” Recently, addicts report spending more per milligram for illicit prescription opioids like oxycodone, morphine, and hydrocodone.

I don’t care whether it’s Florida’s new prescription monitoring program or their crackdown on unscrupulous doctors that’s causing fewer pills for sale on the black market in our area. I’m just thankful that it’s happening.

Readers of this blog, do any of you have opinions as to the availablility of black market prescription opioid drugs now, compared to several months ago?

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dbc92912 on November 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    So long as it is not mandatory, I do not see it having the anticipated ‘stop all pill mill activity’ result that is desired.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jason on November 3, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    There will always be a street market for pills, especially opiates..too many people are going to get prescriptions and selling them because they are out of work. What really needs to be addressed is why we can get 120 pain pills for $10 at the pharmacy (with insurance or $20 without insurance), but I’m spending over $600 a month on suboxone (with Insurance) so I’m able to work and take care of my children. I’m sure there would be less of a need for prescription monitoring if people could afford Suboxone or not have to drive 100 miles at 4 am to get a daily dose of methadone. Big Pharma and the like are running our government and our lives and doctors really don’t care enough to make a stance on behalf of the people. Clearly Ibogaine is the answer but a long drawn out study would only lead to big pharma squashing it with lies and pay-offs.

    Reply

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