“That’s not a problem with the (PDMP) law. That’s a problem with the people,” said Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “Just because you have one person who may have acted inappropriately doesn’t mean the whole system is broken.”
State Rep. Mike Fasano has championed the PDMP for years. The Pasco Republican understands the recent criticism, and supports potential security upgrades, but he doesn’t doubt its future.
The database, meant to help health care practitioners and law enforcement monitor patients who are abusing drugs, has long been the subject of controversy.
The Florida Legislature approved the program in 2009 but refused to pay for it, which delayed the launch until 2011. A Tampa Bay Times investigation last year found that doctors had checked the database before writing just 2 percent of prescriptions for controlled substances. In May, lawmakers waited until the final night of the 2013 session to allocate the necessary $500,000 — out of a $74 billion budget — to keep the program alive for another year.
The number of deaths from prescription pills declined last year, but many questioned the PDMP’s contribution to that success because it had been used so sparingly. They said other efforts — most notably the aggressive crackdown on pill mills — had been more effective.
Though use of the program remains limited, a review last week by the Times found that about 34 percent more prescribers in Florida began using the program between Sept. 1, 2012 and April 30. Over the same period, 22 percent more pharmacists ran at least one query.
Fasano expects it to grow even stronger in the coming years. Schenck, the program’s most ardent critic, will leave office in 2014 when he reaches his term limit. With his absence, Fasano believes lawmakers will support legislation that allows pharmaceutical companies to help provide funding and forces pharmacists to enter prescription information into the database more quickly. Lawmakers may even discuss mandating use by doctors, at least on a patient’s first visit.
“I believe the support out there outweighs overwhelmingly the small amount of opposition to the PDMP,” Fasano said. “It’s going to survive because it’s already gone through the storm.”
Not even Kayanan disagrees with that.
“Our immediate goal is to make DOH more accountable for what is released and how it is released to law enforcement,” she said. “We’d love to see the database dismantled altogether, but understanding realities, we realize that may not be possible.”