Legislation needs to target pill mills — without punishing doctors and patients

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Watch the six o’clock news or read the headlines and you cannot miss the fact that prescription-drug abuse is a scourge as devastating to today’s society as the crack cocaine epidemic was in the 1980s and 1990s. Story after story after story about lives destroyed, if not ended, by oxycodone, vicodin, and all the other prescriptions of death.

The Florida House, prompted by several state leaders, such as Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Senator Dave Aronberg, has reacted responsibly to this crisis, passing on Thursday legislation (HB 7095) aimed at curbing prescription-drug abuse.

The House bill would place new restrictions on clinics, doctors, pharmacies and drug wholesalers. But in some ways, its passage Thursday was a turnaround from the House leadership’s position early in the legislative session.

At that time, House leaders and Gov. Rick Scott called for scrapping a planned prescription-drug database because of concerns that it could infringe on privacy rights. The database, which is aimed at better tracking sales of dangerous drugs, was approved in 2009 but was delayed by a bid dispute. It recently got the OK to start operating.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos opposed eliminating the database, and the issue also drew attention from officials as far away as Kentucky. That is because drug users and traffickers have traveled to Florida from other states to get supplies of painkillers.

The House bill will keep the database, though it also would ban drug manufacturers from contributing money to pay for the system. That worries some database supporters because lawmakers have refused to set aside state money for the system.

The bill also would take steps such as barring most doctors from dispensing two categories of controlled substances in their offices and clinics. That means patients would have to go to pharmacies to get the substances.

It’s that last provision, along with privacy concerns this site highlighted earlier this week, which is drawing concern. Forcing patient to go outside of the doctor-patient relationship is a dangerous overreach which abandonsthe principle of keeping government from intruding into the lives of citizens in something as fundamental as the doctor-patient relationship.

The overreach also tramples on free market economics that are the bedrock of the conservative governance espoused by those leading the Florida Legislature.

Some have used terms like ?octor dealers?to call for passage of legislation to ban physicians from dispensing medication directly to their patients — but that broad brush unfairly and unnecessarily taints all doctors, including the vast majority of law-abiding, patient-oriented professional medical providers.

That is as stupid an idea as shutting down an interstate to stop drivers from speeding.

Keep in mind, physicians undergo years of training in medical school, residency and practice. Unlike the government, physicians are the ones closest to their patients and best know the course of treatment that? needed to lead to the best health outcomes.

Under the legislation, the government will increase its interference in doctors’ practices and is threatening to take away one of the tools doctors use to help better treat their patients.

The good news is the Florida Senate can still moderate this bill and refine its focus to go after the really bad guys — and leave the good guys to do their job, professionally and legally.

Editor’s note: Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this story.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.