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Hurdle Cleared in Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

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Carey Codd is a General Assignment Reporter for CBS4 News and jo...
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The “Oxy Express” might be getting ready to close.

A major hurdle was cleared today that will allow the Florida Department of Health to move forward with a long-awaited prescription drug monitoring program. Supporters believe the program will significantly cut down on the ability of pill mills to dispense large quantities of prescription drugs to people who sell them on the black market in Florida and other states.

That’s led to I-95 being nicknamed the “Oxy Express” for the amount of pill pushers traveling the road to get their hands on oxycontin and other prescription drugs.

The Department of Health received a favorable ruling Friday in a case that was holding up the creation of the program. A company was contesting the award of the contract to Health Information Systems.

Tina Reed, whose son is recovering from an addiction to prescription drugs, is hopeful that this move is the final roadblock to the implementation of the program.

It will “save lives,” she told me. “So many are dying every day because of this.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi released a statement saying, “Stopping pill mills has been my top priority since I took office and the prescription drug monitoring program that the Department of Health will now be implementing is an important tool in combating this crisis. As part of a criminal investigation, the program will enable law enforcement to act more quickly in identifying and arresting pill mill operators. “

The program will track a patient’s prescription history, so a doctor or pharmacist can see if a patient has been receiving an unusually high number of drugs.

Governor Rick Scott objected to the program based on privacy issues but it appears the program will be implemented, despite his concerns. The state legislature approved the program two years ago.

Reed is fearful that the Governor might still try to eliminate the program.

“I am concerned about how Scott is going to respond,” she said. “I just can’t believe Scott’s been fighting it as hard as he has.”

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