Dispensing of Narcotics and Controlled Substances in Florida:
As a Pharmacist in Florida myself, the current climate surrounding the dispensing narcotics and controlled substances such as pain killers in Florida is presenting quite a dilemma to everyone. Pharmacists, doctors and patients are experiencing pressure in an environment of paranoia that truly has reached crises proportions for all involved. The dilemma is of such a magnitude that tomorrow (Monday September 20th) will be a meeting of the Florida Board of Pharmacy’s Controlled Substances Standards Committee. This meeting will initiate a series of panel discussions to be held in Tallahassee in an attempt to come up with a plan on solving the issues regarding dispensing of pain medications in Florida.
The dilemma stems from the Florida statutes passed in 2011 which imposed strict regulations on physician prescribing and pharmacy dispensing of what are considered highly addictive pain medications to patients. In 2011, Florida was known for being the “pill mill capital” of the United States, with pain clinics statewide, especially in the South Florida area. The problem received a high level of national media attention and the state was claimed to draw addicts and drug trafficking operations from across the entire country. Concurrently in 2011, the DEA started to concentrate on Florida pharmacies and distributors that the agency stated were major “contributors” in the chain of pain killer distribution to “unscrupulous” doctors and drug traffickers throughout the state.
This all has led to the current state of dispensing narcotics and pain killers in Florida. Daily we hear stories of legitimate patients in dire need of medication for severe pain being denied their prescriptions. Just last week were three separate documented incidents in the news of patients pleading with pharmacists after going to over a dozen drugstores and being denied medication. One particular incident actually centered around a 4 year old patient who required pain medication after undergoing kidney surgery for renal cancer. In each case the patients or their family members turned to Social Media with the same message: “We are tired of being treated like dug addicts!”. Even worse is the increasing numbers of patients who have committed suicide due to being unable to get their prescriptions filled according to physicians who testified at the Florida Board of Pharmacy committee’s last meeting. At that meeting last month, Susan Langston, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s divergent program manager for the Miami Field Division, called the 4 year old patient’s story “deeply troubling” and stated that the DEA’s Miami staff “is horrified to hear the heartbreaking stories of cancer patients, hospice patients, surgery patients and legitimate pain patients being forced to endure needless suffering,” Langston said. “This has to stop, and it has to stop now.”
Who’s responsible for the problem, and how to fix it, is complicated. Many view it as a problem of “Pharmacist Paranoia” created by the DEA and Florida Board of Pharmacy. Yet who can deny that the DEA has shut down 13 pharmacies in the state since 2011 or forget the $80 million fine that Walgreens paid three years ago for violations regarding distribution and dispensing of highly addictive narcotics.
In talking solution, the committee meetings are a first step in the right direction. So is the fact that The Board of Pharmacy’s committee agreed last month to open up the 2002 “Standards of Practice for Dispensing of Controlled Substances for the Treatment of Pain” for possible revision. Also being considered is requiring doctors to consult the state’s prescription-drug monitoring program, the database that contains all of the prescriptions for controlled substances. About 10 percent of physicians use the program, according to the latest data provided by the Department of Health. Nearly half of the state’s pharmacists have consulted the database, the records show.
As always HCC is here to help you. Healthcare Consulting is a full service Pharmacy Consulting firm that has been in business for over 26 years. HCC has been helping pharmacies plan, prepare and deal with critical business issues since 1989. HCC is owned and operated by pharmacists who are experts in the development and implementation of policies and procedures in all areas of Pharmacy practice. It is also a good opportunity for you to ensure that your pharmacy is in compliance with all state licensing requirements and to have all of your pharmacies’ policies and procedures reviewed by experts! Contact us on line or call us today for a Free Consultation at 800-642-1652 to discuss how we can help you.