Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is “off and running” like a Kentucky Derby winner leaving the starting gate. (E-FORCSE) the “Electronic Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation Program” recently released some surprising statistics. These initial numbers reflect that the medical profession has quickly embraced the system by both inputting and accessing data.
Florida Statute Section 893.055 now requires health care practitioners to timely make an entry into the computer system each time certain controlled substances are dispensed. The idea behind the legislation is to use technology to uncover patients who are committing felony offenses by “doctor shopping,” “drug trafficking,” or committing “prescription fraud.” The online system pertains to all Schedules II, III, and IV controlled substances.
Popular Pain Killers and Depressants Maintained in the Database
The Data Inputted into the System
is Growing at an Astonishing Rate
Although the Florida Prescription Database just recently went live on September 1st, 2011, the records being uploaded into the system increased nearly ten-fold during the period of late October and mid November. The process of electronically collecting and dispensing information is “gathering steam.” By November 28th, 2011, 21.8 million dispensing records had been received, which constituted a jump of 2 million prescription records in less than two weeks! These numbers reveal both the staggering number of controlled substance prescriptions and the high compliance rate on the part of those dispensing these spotlighted prescription drugs.
Big Brother is Now Watching
What has not been widely focused on is the number of “inquiries” being made to the database. Under the current status of the law, health care professionals are not required to access the database prior to prescribing a controlled substance. Use of the database system by prescribing physicians is merely voluntary. Although general members of the public cannot access the Prescription Drug Database, it is clear, many doctors are taking advantage of the opportunity to snoop into their patient’s background. In addition, despite patient confidentiality, protected health information and federal HIPAA requirements, Florida law now provides that a law enforcement agency can also access the data during their “active” investigations of potential criminal activity, fraud, or theft that concern prescribed controlled substances. It is important to note, that in this context, the definition of an “active investigation” is somewhat unclear.
Records released by the Florida Department of Health reveal that “queries” into the system, which is overseen by Health Information Designs, Inc. have grown immensely. These are “searches” made by both medical practitioners and law enforcement investigators for the purpose of reviewing an individual’s prescription history. The newly released statistics reveal that searches for patient prescription information grew from approximately 11,000 “Patient Advisory Reports” as of October 25th, to more than 160,000 as of November 28th. This 1,454% increase in only one month confirms that “Big Brother” is clearly watching.
Consider the impact of Florida’s new prescription database… doctors using the prescription database have approved in excess of 6000 prescriptions and already denied in excess of 590.
Access to Prescription History Data
Our office reviewed the “Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Fact Sheet” that has been provided to doctors by the Florida Department of Health. This advisory, encourages physicians to take advantage of the system “ in identifying patients who are doctor shopping or trying to obtain multiple prescriptions for the same controlled substance from multiple health care practitioners.” The same document points out, that “if the database Program Manager observes a pattern that indicates a patient may be doctor shopping, or attempting to obtain multiple prescriptions for controlled substances from multiple health care practioners, the information may be provided to law enforcement.” E-Forcse can make the “Patient Advisory Reports” available for viewing within a matter of only a few minutes after the online request is received. Likewise, this service is operational twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Pinellas County Arrests for Doctor Shopping or Prescription Fraud
If you have been arrested as a result of a pharmacist or physician’s contact and cooperation with law enforcement, we can help. Likewise, if Florida’s Prescription Database has led to your arrest, we are lawyers with the background and experience to defend your charges.
As well qualified criminal defense attorneys, we can investigate the means by which evidence was gathered in your case to determine its admissibility in court. We can also advise you as to what proactive steps you can take after your arrest, to place yourself in the best possible position with the judge assigned to your case at the Clearwater Criminal Justice Center. For example, we may suggest a substance abuse evaluation in anticipation of your transfer into Pinellas County’s Drug Court. Or, we may request that you secure medical documentation that supports your claim that you previously suffered a legitimate injury or have a physical disability necessitating pain management.
Our office is very familiar with local substance abuse treatment programs. (Both residential & out patient providers) If appropriate to the facts and circumstances of your individual case, we can discuss with you the various aspects of each program and treatment provider.
We have represented a large number of clients arrested and charged with prescription pill offenses in the St. Petersburg / Clearwater area. As such, we are in an excellent position, to tailor a strategy designed to achieve our goal of avoiding a felony conviction and incarceration. In many situations, a client’s case can be resolved in such a way that they may be eligible to have their records of arrest sealed or expunged.
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