On March 9, drugmaker Purdue Pharma publicly announced in a news release that it was committing $1 million over two years to fund the drug-monitoring program, on the condition that the program be implemented under the 2009 authorizing legislation.
Purdue's funding would go toward implementation in Florida of the PMP Interconnect hub, a program developed by contractors for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to transmit information across state lines about prescriptions of monitored drugs.
“We appreciate the (state's) financial position, but at the same time, believe that a prescription drug monitoring program in Florida can help curb prescription drug abuse in that state and in other states as well,” Purdue President and CEO John H. Stewart said in the news release.
Purdue, of Stamford, Conn., is the maker of the pain drug OxyContin, the abuse of which directly caused the deaths of 79 people in Florida and contributed to another 1,100 deaths in the state in 2009, according to a report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Florida's monitoring program would call on physicians and pharmacists to report information on prescriptions for OxyContin and about 200 other medications into a database that could be used by law enforcement to detect whether patients are visiting multiple doctors for pain medications.
The governor, who took office this year, has said the previously approved program would punish legitimate doctors with extra work while not hindering dishonest prescribers and pharmacists who wouldn't report to a registry anyway.
The governor in early February called for greater law-enforcement efforts to address the problem. Several weeks later, in an action described as the first in a broader initiative dubbed Operation Pill Nation, local law enforcement cooperated with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration on a three-county sweep that raided several dozen pain clinics and resulted in the seizure of $2.2 million and several luxury cars and the arrests of 22 people, including Dr. Zvi Perper, son of Broward County Medical Examiner Dr. Joshua Perper. He has pleaded not guilty.
Despite Scott's opposition to the monitoring program, newly elected Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has supported it. “The prescription drug database can be an important part of the fight against pill mills,” Bondi said in a news release.
State Senate President Mike Haridopolos said in February he still intends to have the program implemented, and that Scott's budget proposals are only recommendations.
Gil Kerlikowske, the White House's director of national drug policy (commonly referred to as the administration's drug czar) met in early March with Florida officials charged with running the program and issued a news release urging that it move forward.
“An average of seven people die in Florida each day as result of prescription drug abuse,” Kerlikowske said. “We owe it to the thousands of victims of prescription drug abuse in Florida and throughout the nation to work together to implement state initiatives like Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs that we know work to reduce this public health threat.”