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Thursday, May 06, 2021

Database goes live to curb ‘pill mills'

After almost 10 years of struggle, the prescription drug database Florida State Sen. Mike Fasano has worked for went live Monday.

The Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation program, known as E-FORCSE, allows physicians and pharmacists to access the prescription drug histories of patients before writing or filling their prescriptions for highly addictive drugs like OxyContin.

"It's a long time coming ... and it's something that should have been done years ago," said Fasano, R-New Port Richey. "Our hope is to save lives.

"Pill mills" are health care facilities that prescribe and dispense controlled substances in ways that are either outside the bounds of standard medical practices or are illegal in the state, according to the program's website.

These programs aim to identify "doctor shoppers" - people who try to get prescriptions for a controlled substance from different health care practitioners. This practice is a felony in Florida, according to the website.

Prescription drugs kill six Floridians per day - five times as many as that are caused by all illegal drugs combined, also according to the website.

Health care practitioners like pharmacists who dispense more addictive drugs such as Vicodin and Xanax must report the event in the database.

Some exceptions do apply, such as when a person provides one of these prescription drugs to a patient in a licensed hospital's emergency room, according to an E-FORCSE fact sheet.

Physicians aren't required to check the database before prescribing controlled substances.

The implementation of the program was delayed by several factors, and it faced opposition from Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Pharmacists have been adding information about prescription drug dispensations for at least the last 45 days before the database was up, Fasano said.

Laura Tipton, pharmacy manager at the UF Student Health Care Center, said pharmacists have been submitting information to the database since Sept. 1. The on-campus pharmacy has not yet started using the database in making prescription decisions, though.

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Florida isn't the only state to have a prescription drug monitoring program. Thirty-five other states across the U.S. have similar operations in place.

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