Gov. Rick Scott signs a new law aimed at controlling the state's "pill mills" by penalizing doctors who overprescribe painkillers, tightening rules for operating pharmacies and authorizing a prescription-drug monitoring database.
Tampa, Florida -- With a stroke of a pen, Governor Rick Scott dealt a new blow on Florida's prescription drug epidemic making the so-called "Pill Mill Bill" law.
He signed HB 7095 in Tampa on Friday afternoon, one of three stops statewide to sign the get tough legislation.
"We have model legislation. We've been more aggressive than the rest of the country in what we're doing and I believe this will have a dramatic impact," said Governor Scott.
The law will drastically change how controlled substances like Oxycodone and methadone are dispensed and prescribed in Florida.
Not only will it track the drugs throughout the whole chain on distribution, from the manufacturer to the pharmacy, it puts limits on who can dispense the powerful pills and toughens penalties on those who violate the law.
"Florida will shed its title of 'Oxy Express,'" Governor Scott said.
"Of all of doctors that dispense oxycodone in the United States, 85% of all the oxycodone carriers are in Florida. That is a damning statistic we should all be embarrassed about," said the billl's sponsor, Representative Robert Schenck (R-Spring Hill).
"The legitimate patients that need it, should be able to get it, but the rest should not," he added, "So now, doctors will no longer be allowed to dispense these medications and for those doctors who want to make a quick buck by prescribing them over and over again, we're now tracking those prescriptions."
Physicians who are not board certified in pain medicine or have not completed a fellowship in pain medicine will not be allowed to dispense some controlled substances from their offices.
The new law will put a public health emergency in place that will require manufacturers of the meds to buy back the pain pills from the doctors at the price they paid for it.
It also enacts a Prescription Drug Monitoring Database which will require physicians to submit data on prescriptions written for controlled substances within seven days.
Pinellas County Sheriff David Gee applauded the bills passage, "This is very important. It's going to help us develop and investigate leads and identify those individuals that are abusing the system."
The bill also allots $3 million to law enforcement and prosecutors to continue their efforts to crack down on the illegal activity surrounding prescription drugs.
"We've really got to start to going after that black market and gray market out there in Florida and that's what we're doing right now on the law enforcement side," said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.
This only part of the state's efforts to shed its title of being the pill mill capital of the country.
In March, Governor Scott, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey teamed up with law enforcement across the state to launch a Statewide Drug Strike Force. More than 40 arrests have been made so far in our area as a result of the regional task force's efforts.
Lisa Meshad of Sarasota says she's grateful to Governor Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi for passing the new law. She's convinced if it were in place sooner, her 18-year-old daughter Brandi might still be alive.
She says Brandi died of a suspected accidental overdose on oxycodone in March.
"I think this is a great start to the changes that we need to tackle in Florida, being what I call a tsunami epidemic," Meshad told 10 News.
She has since worked to educate other parents and teens about the dangers of prescription drugs.
"Brandi, if you knew here was vivacious, beautiful, outgoing, she was a phenomenal student, she was a teenager and there is a teen myth out there that somehow pain medications are more safe," said Meshad.
She and her family are working to develop a locking bag for purses and medicine cabinets that families can use to secure their medications from their kids.
The new law takes effect on July 1st with other provisions taking effect on January 1, 2012.
Here are the impacts of HB 7095:
* Prohibits physicians from dispensing controlled Substances in Schedule II and II. If caught, they face a 3rd degree felony charge.
* Effective January 1, 2012, physicians must register with their respective boards, maintain a log of all prescriptions, complete a complete medical history and physical examination of the patient, assess patient for drug abuse and monitor patient's risk, have a written treatment plan for the patient and periodically review treatment
(Physicians board certified in pain management and board certified physicians who have completed a fellowship in pain medicine are exempt.)
* The law also requires physicians to use approved, counterfeit-proof prescription pads when prescribing a controlled substance.
* Bill creates new permitting requirements for pharmacies which includes on site inspection by the Department of Health, disclose financial interest in other pharmacies in the last five years, submit written policies and procedures for dispensing controlled substances
* A permit can be denied if any person affiliated with the applying pharmacy has been convicted of certain felonies since July 1, 2009, convicted or entered guilty or not contest plea for felonies under Medicare and Medicaid laws since July 1,2009, or has violated certain federal drug laws.
* Maintain a log of all log of all prescriptions filled
* Starting January 1, 2012 pharmacies that are not owned by a publicly traded corporation with at least $100 million of business taxable assets will not be allowed to dispense Schedule II and III drugs. Pharmacies must also be continuously permitted for ten years.
(Licensed hospices, hospitals and nursing homes or pharmacies that exclusively serve those organizations are exempt.)
* Wholesale distributors will have to submit monthly reports to the Department of Health if they distribute controlled substances.
* Distributors will also be required to check credentials of the physican and pharmacies ordering from them.
* Distributors will not be allowed to distribute more than 5,000 doses of certain controlled substances like oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone to each pharmacy, each month.
Enhanced Criminal Penalties:
* 1st degree misdemeanor for any pharmacy employee failing to report an attempt within 24 hours of someone trying to fraudulently obtain a controlled substance.
* Burglary statute also toughened up for those caught breaking into a structure to steal controlled substance. Doing so will be a second degree felony.
* Theft of loss of a controlled substance must be reported within 24 hours. Failing to do so within 48 hours could result in a second degree misdemeanor for Schedule III, IV, and V drugs. It would be a first degree misdemeanor for Schedule II drugs.
* It will be a 3rd degree felony to distribute controlled substances improperly.