In 2009, the Florida Legislature established a new program that requires doctors, pharmacists and others who dispense certain prescription medication (such as oxycontin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, alprazolam, percocet and vicodin) to enter the information into a state monitored prescription database. Proponents of the database have fought for its implementation to battle Florida's nation-wide reputation as a "pill mill." They have also been motivated by last year's record 2,488 prescription drug overdose deaths as reported by Florida Medical Examiner's Office.
Once the prescription database goes live, Pinellas prosecutors are predicting a sharp rise in their caseloads for criminal charges associated with Felony Drug Possession, Doctor Shopping, Prescription Fraud and Drug Trafficking. In addition, it is anticipated that the Pinellas County Drug Court will likewise have its resources stretched.
Grant Funds Up for Grabs
To fund the purchase of the massive computer database, implement the program and then train the medical professionals, Florida lawmakers are using part of a 65 million dollar federal grant that was awarded to state governments in 2005. By law, the Florida Department of Health was required to begin tracking prescriptions no later than December 1st, 2010. After Auburn, Alabama's Health Information Designs Inc. won the contract to provide the service in July, everything seemed to be on track to meet the December deadline. After all, the company was founded back in 1976 and had a proven history of providing prescription drug monitoring and related clinical support services for clients in twenty-five states. Timely bringing Florida up to speed didn't seem likely to be a problem... until now.
To the Victor Goes the Spoils
It seems that corporate competitor, Optimum Technology, Inc has just filed a protest to the State's method of awarding the Prescription Database contract. Optimum alleges that the method of scoring bids and awarding the contract was unfair. An initial hearing before an administrative law judge has been set for September 24th, 2010. State Senator, Mike Fasano has indicated, that as a result of the litigation, implementation of the program is sure to be delayed until at least January or February of 2011.
Echoes of the Past
This "corporate wrangling" is eerily similar to what took place with Florida's Ignition Interlock legislation and the ultimate award of a lucrative service contract to the private sector in 2003. At that time, Alcohol Countermeasure Systems (ACS) had been awarded the contract to provide ignition interlock devices to all drivers convicted under a DUI law that provided for new penalties. Under the exclusive terms of the contract, ACS would provide service service / installation centers and lease their proprietary ignition interlock device to drivers all across Florida. However, competing provider, Lifesaver Interlock, Inc., who had lost the bid, filed a formal protest (Lifesafer Interlock, Inc vs. DHSMV, Case No: 03-2726BID). This had the result of delaying implementation of Florida's Ignition Interlock Program. Subsequent mediation in September of 2003 resulted in a compromise agreement. Under the "settlement," the state of Florida was split in half, with Lifesaver providing interlocks to the northern residents of Florida and ACS awarded counties situated in the southern portion of the State.
Solomon's Wisdom Unlikely to Prevail
The "splitting the baby" solution is unlikely to solve our current dilemma. That's because a prescription database requires a single seamless system of computers linked by a common server. Its sole purpose is to marry independently owned and operated doctor's offices and pharmacies into a single record keeping family to prevent the abuse, misuse and diversion of controlled substance prescription medication. As a result, you can count on further litigation and delay.
Have You Been Arrested for...
Doctor Shopping, Prescription Fraud, Drug Trafficking, Possession of a Drug Related Offense?
We are experienced St. Petersburg / Clearwater criminal defense attorneys. We are very familiar with the defense of prescription fraud (Fla. Stat. 893.13(9)) and doctor shopping cases (Fla. Stat. 893.13(7)) that involve controlled substances such as Oxycontin. Our practice is limited exclusively to criminal cases arising out of Pinellas County and we regularly appear in Pinellas county's drug court. Our office realizes how addiction can play a major role in motivating theses offenses. We also know how efforts toward your rehabilitation can serve as a great mitigating factor in dealing with the charge. We can deliver sound advice and offer a strategy that is directed toward avoiding conviction, avoiding jail, & obtaining drug treatment.
Contact our office for a free consultation at: (727) 578-0303
Governor Charlie Crist Prescription Database Information
Alliance of States With Prescription Monitoring Programs
National Association of Drug Diversion Invstigators
National Center on Addiction & Drug Abuse at Columbia University
Charged with Possession of Drug Paraphernalia?