By Greg Giordano
Since going online Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) has proven to be a success. Ten years in the making, the database, which tracks the prescribing of certain controlled substances, has helped save lives, reduce crime and improve patient health and safety.
“Unscrupulous pill mill operators have been put out of business, making Florida as a whole a safer place for all,” states Senator Mike Fasano, the chief sponsor behind the creation of the database. “Figures showing that the number of deaths due to prescription drugs has decreased is the ultimate measure that the PDMP is accomplishing what it was created to do.“
The PDMP, which has been dubbed E-FORSCE (Electronic – Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation program) is operated within the Florida Department of Health ( headed by Florida’s Surgeon General). Since the program went live 8,345 medical professionals have enrolled in the program. This figure represents 13.5% of Florida-based prescribers who have written a prescription for a controlled substance. Under current law prescribers are not mandated to consult the database. However, both the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association have encouraged their membership to make consulting the database a routine part of their daily practice.
9,224 pharmacists have been credentialed to access the database since its inception. The burden for reporting prescriptions falls upon the pharmacy that dispenses a controlled substance. Under current law pharmacies have no more than 7 days to report details about controlled substance prescriptions that have been filled. Due to computers and automation, updates normally occur more frequently. This important aspect of the program helps identify patients who may travel from pharmacy to pharmacy in an attempt to fill the same or similar prescriptions from multiple doctors. This practice, known as doctor shopping, is illegal in Florida.
State law allows law enforcement to have indirect access to the database only if an active or ongoing investigation is taking place. Law enforcement is not allowed to randomly consult the database. To date, 734 registered law enforcement officers across the state have been able to obtain information from the PDMP, which has gone a long way towards reducing the diversion of prescription medications.
The PDMP currently does not receive state funding for its operation. When the database was created, a funding arm known as the PDMP Foundation was also created. The purpose of the Foundation is to raise the dollars needed to keep the database continually funded and operational. Federal grants and private donations have kept the program afloat. State law prohibits the use of state dollars or donations from pharmaceutical companies to pay for the PDMP.
Senator Fasano plans to make the ongoing funding of the PDMP a top priority during the 2013 legislative session. He supports lifting the ban on utilizing state dollars and pharmaceutical donations to ensure that adequate funding for the database is available. Additionally, Senator Fasano will work towards requiring prescribers to consult the database before controlled substance prescriptions are written in Florida.
The overall success of the PDMP can be measured by the decrease in deaths with a causal relationship to prescription medications. The Department of Health reports that in 2009 the monthly average number of deaths which involved certain controlled substances was 147.3. In 2011 that number was cut by 19%, due to the implementation of the database as well as more stringent prescribing policies implementing by prescribers.
(Data provided by the Florida Department of Health and the Florida PDMP Foundation was used in this article)