Florida passes drug monitoring law; could affect Kentucky pill-seekers

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comMay 1, 2009 

The Florida General Assembly passed legislation Thursday authorizing use of an electronic system that would track the prescription and dispensing of controlled substances in Florida, according to one of its sponsors, Florida Rep. Kelly Skidmore.

The news came as a relief to Kentucky officials who blame the lack of electronic monitoring in Florida on the growing phenomenon of Kentuckians traveling in planes and vans to Florida, where doctors prescribe hundreds of pain pills for cash.

The prescriptions are obtained legally, but people often bring them back to be sold by traffickers in Kentucky. The trips are an effort to escape the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system, known as KASPER, which tracks who prescribes, dispenses and receives the drugs.

"The bill will give them the ability to monitor the pill factories that have popped up all throughout the state of Florida, which have impacted Kentucky health care," said Kentucky Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who wrote a letter to the speaker of the Florida house asking him to support it.

Physicians and coroners in Kentucky are blaming the pill pipeline between the two states on widespread cases of drug addiction and multiple overdose deaths.

The legislation now goes to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for his signature. A spokesman for Crist said the legislation looks like a good bill, but Crist hasn't taken a public position yet, according to the Associated Press.

Mongiardo said that if the governor signs the bill into law, Kentucky officials will provide Florida with the software used for KASPER and that once the Florida system is up and running, the two states will share information about the prescriptions. Kentucky officials are currently working on ways to exchange information with other states that have electronic monitoring systems.

Kentucky State Police Capt. Kevin Payne said that he hopes Florida will have the same success that Kentucky has had with its system. Kentucky doctors and pharmacists using KASPER have been instrumental in keeping drugs out of the wrong hands in the state, he said.

"I think after they get it up and running, they will find it to be the best deterrent to prescription drug fraud," Payne said. "As a law enforcement officer, I am thankful that doctors and pharmacists have this valuable tool to ensure the controlled substances they are prescribing are not being duplicated by other unsuspecting doctors."

The legislation had failed seven times previously, but had more support this year because of a public outcry about Florida clinics that dispense the pills.

Because the legislation does not include the money to run Florida's program, Skidmore said officials will seek both private funding and apply to Kentucky Rep. Hal Rogers' Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and NASPER, a program backed by Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield.

The electronic monitoring system, Skidmore said, "will help us end Florida's status as the nation's pill mill."

Reach Valarie Honeycutt Spears at (859) 231-3409 or 1-800-950-6397.

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