Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Law to monitor legal drugs in Fla. unlikely

The News-Press

Tallahassee – Sen. Burt Saunders thinks it’s a simple solution to a widespread problem: since legal prescription drugs kill more people than illegal ones, the state should monitor their sale.

But for three years, House lawmakers under pressure from drug companies have stymied the legislation.

Saunders, a Naples Republican running for attorney general, said today that he’s afraid this year’s bill could meet a similar fate.

“We have less than three weeks left (in the legislature) and this could literally save thousands of lives,” Saunders said.

Saunders was joined at a morning press conference today by two mothers whose sons had died from overdoses of prescription drugs.

The bill would let the state create a database for some drugs prescribed to patients 16 years of age or older, and allow law enforcement to more quickly search for fraud. Critics have complained the bill could be an unwarranted invasion of privacy, but Saunders said it would comply with state and federal health care privacy laws and would only go back through two years of data.

Sgt. Lisa McElheney, who heads Broward County’s drug diversion unit, said even when law enforcement are tipped off about a doctor over-prescribing drugs like Oxycontin, they often don’t have the manpower to follow all their leads.

“Most of these drugs are going through legal channels,” she said.

Six people a day die in Florida from prescription drug abuse, according to the Florida Office of Drug Control. House and Senate versions of the bill are still in committees.

By Aaron Deslatte


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