Mar 20 2011
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations subcommittee, today urged Florida Governor Rick Scott to reconsider his proposal to shutter a statewide prescription drug monitoring program aimed at reducing the abuse and illicit diversion of prescription drugs.
The monitoring program is an electronic database which collects designated data on controlled substances dispensed in the state, providing a platform to connect physicians, pharmacists and, in some instances, authorized law enforcement. The program supports access to legitimate medical use of controlled substances while deterring or preventing drug abuse and diversion. Forty-five states have authorized such programs, and thirty-four are currently operational. Efforts are underway to facilitate secure data exchange among states to crack down on interstate “doctor shopping,” which in recent months has led to a spike in abuse and overdose deaths across the country.
Florida’s program was authorized in 2009, largely in response to national outcry over an outbreak of dangerous pill mills in the state, but to date, has not been implemented by the Florida Department of Health.
In a letter to Governor Scott, Rogers and Wolf pointed to an article from the Florida Weekly that documents Florida’s history as the “unquestioned ‘pill mill’ capital of the United States.”
“It is no secret that individuals travel across the country to purchase drugs from Florida pharmacies with notoriously lax standards,” they wrote.
Additionally, Rogers and Wolf noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the number of overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers increased 296 percent between 1999 and 2007. According to the report, drug overdose is the leading cause of unintentional death in the U.S., surpassing motor vehicle and firearms accidents.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart recently testified before Wolf’s subcommittee that the abuse of controlled prescription drugs is among the greatest narcotic abuse and trafficking concerns facing the U.S. today – and Florida is the center of the epidemic.
“Administrator Leonhart clearly demonstrated that Florida is ground zero for this problem,” said Wolf.
Rogers and Wolf have worked closely for many years to fight the trafficking of prescription drugs from Florida to Kentucky, Virginia, and other states.
“Federal and state officials from across the country have pleaded with Governor Scott to move forward with Florida’s PDMP, and his continued rebuffs are utterly mind-boggling. Prescription drug monitoring programs are proven and cost-effective tools for cutting down on abuse and diversion, and standing up a system in Florida is the perhaps the most important step to shutting down the ‘Flamingo Road’ that’s been wreaking havoc up and down the eastern seaboard,” stated Rogers. “I hope the Governor will wise up to the scope of the problem within and outside his borders.”
The text of the letter is below.
The Hon. Rick Scott
Governor of Florida
400 Monroe St
Tallahassee, FL 32399-6536
Dear Governor Scott:
We write to share our concern over your recent decision to shut down Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program, as previously noted in Chairman Rogers’ February 18 letter to you. Additionally, during a recent Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart testified that the abuse of controlled prescription drugs are among the greatest narcotic abuse and trafficking concerns we face today – and Florida is the center of this epidemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the number of overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers increased by 296 percent between 1999 and 2007. In fact, drug overdose is the leading cause of unintentional death in the U.S., surpassing motor vehicle and firearms accidents. Seven Floridians die every day from prescription drug abuse.
We have worked closely together for many years to fight the trafficking of prescription drugs from Florida to Kentucky, Virginia and many other states. We have seen firsthand the devastating impact on families of abusers and our communities. The enclosed op-ed by Shawn Seliger, a Florida attorney who lost his step-daughter to drug overdose, details the pain felt by the families of young overdose victims that we have witnessed in our states.
Further, according to the enclosed article from the Florida Weekly, “Florida is the unquestioned ‘pill mill’ capital of the United States.” As has been reiterated to you by Chairman Rogers, as well as many members of Congress and governors from around the nation, it is no secret that individuals travel across the country to purchase drugs from Florida pharmacies with notoriously lax standards. The article also reported that, “Dave Aronberg, a former state senator who is now a special prosecutor with the state attorney general’s office and charged with tackling the pill mill problem, recently noted that in the first six months of 2010, 41.2 million doses of oxycodone were prescribed in Florida. The total prescribed doses of oxycodone in every other state combined was 4.8 million. In other words, almost 90 percent of the oxycodone prescribed in the United States is ordered by Florida physicians.”
As Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee, we understand your interest in protecting individual privacy and reducing spending. Our Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 appropriations legislation, H.R. 1, would cut $100 billion in annualized spending from the president’s FY 2011 budget request while reducing burdensome federal interference in state and local governments and the private sector. We nonetheless recognize that shutting down illegal “pill mill” operations and preventing prescription drug abuse and trafficking are inherently governmental functions that merit strong federal, state and local oversight.
We understand that Administrator Leonhart has requested to meet with you regarding the prescription painkiller abuse epidemic in Florida. We respectfully urge you to meet with the administrator as soon as possible to discuss how Florida can support federal efforts to prevent prescription drug abuse. We look forward to your response.
House Appropriations Committee
Frank R. Wolf
House Appropriations Committee