The Koger Building
Corner of 9th Street North & Gandy Blvd.
9721 Executive Center Drive North, Suite 120
St. Petersburg, FL 33702
St. Petersburg / Clearwater Prescription Fraud Lawyers
The Florida prescription drug database went live on November 1, 2011. The database is used as a tool to identify people who attempt to obtain prescription painkillers without a legitimate medical need or those who go to multiple locations to obtain the same drug (often referred to as doctor shopping). In 2005, the federal government authorized a $60 million grant for states to create these databases to combat the growing problem of Americans abusing controlled substance prescriptions. As a result of privacy concerns, the Florida legislature wrestled for seven years over creating the prescription drug monitoring law. Those fears were well-founded. In 2009, hackers compromised a similar electronic prescription drug database in Virginia and demanded a $10 million ransom in exchange for not releasing patients’ medical records. However, despite the broad access to private medical records and the potential for unintended disclosure or identity theft, Governor Charlie Crist nevertheless signed the bill into law in 2009, creating Florida Statute 893.055.
The Florida prescription drug database is formally known as the “Prescription Drug Monitoring Program” (PDMP). With the activation of this program, Florida has joined 38 other states in tracking prescription drugs through a computerized database. Advocates contend that the high rate of prescription drug abuse in Florida will be curtailed through the use of the prescription database by doctors, pharmacists, and the police.
As new pain management clinics spring up across the state to meet high demand, multiple overdose deaths among pain patients have occurred. The media has reported that other clinics are freely prescribing controlled substances outside Florida Medical Board guidelines simply to make a quick profit. These so-called “pill mills” have been blamed for making prescription drug overdose one of the leading causes of accidental deaths in Florida. Prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs are now responsible for the untimely death of about 500 people a year just in the Tampa Bay area alone. This number is nearly triple the fatalities associated with illegal drug overdoses.
The prescription drug database is essentially a “pain management medication database” that is designed to monitor those patients who allegedly “doctor shop,” or go from doctor to doctor seeking pain medication. It also allows doctors to have access to information that will permit them to decide whether to prescribe certain pain medications to patients based on their prescription history.
Before a pharmacy or doctor is granted access to information in the prescription drug monitoring program’s database, they are required to register and gain approval from the Florida Department of Health. Of course, the registration process also allows law enforcement to access the same data. See Training Guide for Florida’s Medical Practitioners and Pharmacists.
The database system provides patient prescription information to a patient’s health care practitioner or pharmacist only after the information has been specifically requested. Critics argue that this program requires doctors and other health care workers to take on the role of “detectives” in order for the monitoring system to be effective. The electronic database will not provide for real-time entry of prescribing information since pharmacists and doctors will have 15 days to report the sale of these prescriptions to the Florida Department of Health. This two-week lag time has been criticized by some who say that the amount of time needed to identify “doctor shopping” is crucial in the fight to stop alleged drug traffickers.
During “active investigations” regarding potential criminal activity, fraud, or theft regarding a prescribed controlled substance, a law enforcement agency may request a patient’s prescription information through the prescription drug monitoring program director. Proponents of the prescription database claim that it will be used as a tool to flag potential problems with prescriptions and alert medical staff rather than as a direct method of generating criminal charges. Supporters say it will really serve to help doctors and pharmacists who “suspect” a problem by allowing them to assess whether or not a patient is “shopping” for the prescriptions at multiple locations. On the other hand, the potential for law enforcement to comb the database during a “pending investigation” seems quite likely. In the past, such an investigation may have required a search warrant authorized by an impartial judge or at least a lawfully issued subpoena. Now, the information is available simply upon request to a bureaucratic agency.
The pharmacy or doctor dispensing the medication will have to submit detailed information about each prescription to the Florida Department of Health. To be in compliance with the reporting requirements, the following information is required:
Doctors administering these drugs in hospitals and emergency rooms are not required to report those prescriptions. Furthermore, a doctor or pharmacist dispensing a one-time, 48-hour emergency supply of a controlled substance is also be exempt from reporting. Information in the prescription drug database is not admissible in any civil or administrative action except disciplinary proceedings by the Florida Department of Health.
Our law office has represented many people who have been charged in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and other areas of Pinellas County with a criminal offense related to prescription medication. As a result, we are very familiar with the unique nature of these charges and are experienced in resolving these cases within the local Pinellas County criminal court system.
Options and Strategies that May be the Best for You
It is important to analyze the facts of your case to determine whether any of your constitutional or privacy rights were violated. This may result in excluding evidence or in keeping statements that were made by you out of court.
Your case may be appropriate for Pinellas County’s drug court program. Participating in drug court allows you to avoid formal conviction and obtain treatment and counseling. Click here for further information on the Pinellas County Drug Court.
You may be eligible to participate in a Diversion Program (P.T.I. / Pre-Trial Intervention) that would entitle you to have the charges dismissed upon successful completing. Read our page on Diversion Programs available in Pinellas County.
We can also assist you in obtaining treatment and substance abuse counseling. Our office is familiar with several local addiction treatment providers. In many cases, a coordinated strategy that allows you to address the addiction issue early on in your case, may later pay dividends in seeking leniency with the court.
Depending on your prior record and the particular facts and circumstances of your case, you may be eligible tohave your record of arrest sealed or expunged. Read more about sealing or expunging Pinellas County criminal records.
Call our office for a free initial consultation at (727) 578-0303