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Pill Mill Database Gets The Go-Ahead

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Carey Codd is a General Assignment Reporter for CBS4 News and jo...
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OAKLAND PARK (CBS4) – A South Florida mother believes a new prescription drug monitoring database will save lives.

“It’s not a cure-all but it is a tool to help stop the proliferation of pill mills in this state,” Tina Reed, whose son was addicted to powerful painkillers, told CBS 4′s Carey Codd.

The prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP,  cleared its’ final hurdle last Friday. The Florida 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.

That means the PDMP, created by the Florida Legislature in 2009, will go into effect this summer, according to the state’s drug czar, Dave Aronberg.

“Finally Florida will no longer be the destination for all these drug users who come down here in great part because we don’t have a database,” Aronberg said.

The PDMP 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.

For years, Florida has dealt with the influx of people from other states seeking doctors who would prescribe them hundreds of prescription drugs with little oversight. Many of those pills would be sold on the black market in their home states.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti fought for the PDMP to be implemented.

“In my mind it only makes sense to set up a database that would allow us to keep track of the doctor shoppers and traffickers who abuse the system and acquire the pills that are killing people every day,” Lamberti said in a statement provided to CBS 4 News.

Tina Reed said her son, Jonathan, nearly died from his addiction to prescription drugs.

“The fear of overdose is looming every moment,” Reed said. “You never know if you’re going to go in their bedroom and they’re going to be alive or dead.”

Her son began using prescription drugs several years ago, Reed said. He used a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a reason to get his hands on hundreds of pain pills at a time.

“(He) could easily go to two doctors in one day and get 400 pills,” Reed said. “It’s crazy.”

Fortunately, Jonathan beat his addiction and has been clean since last summer.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi released a statement Friday in favor of the PDMP 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. “

Governor Rick Scott objected to the program based on privacy issues but supporters say the information will be protected. Aronberg said 35 other states already have monitoring programs in place.

“There has not, to my knowledge, been a single adverse incident in any of those states,” Aronberg said.

The law creating the database does have some limitations, Aronberg said. Doctors do not have to check the database before writing a prescription and they can wait 15 days before entering information into the program.

Aronberg also said there is a bill pending in Tallahassee to tighten those limitations.

Supporters hope the database brings an end to lines of people waiting outside clinics for drugs. They also hope it will lead to the arrests of more doctors who over prescribe prescription drugs and fewer pills being sold on the black market.

Josh Teeter lives a few blocks from a pain clinic called Commercial Medical that was busted by the feds in February. The clinic’s owner — Vincent Colangelo — faces numerous federal charges. Federal agents said Commercial Medical is one of 7 clinics owned in Broward and Miami-Dade by Colangelo, of Davie. Investigators said Colangelo’s businesses dispensed 660,000 oxycodone pills in a two-year period. Investigators also said Colangelo’s operation earned him $150,000 per day.

Teeter believes the monitoring program will limit the amount of people doctor shopping for powerful pills.

“If it’s putting a vice on drug dealers and limiting the options for these drug addicted people to get their drugs, it’ll be a good thing, it’ll be a positive influence for Fort Lauderdale,” Teeter said.

Tina Reed is hopeful that the database will prevent more kids like her son from becoming addicts.

“I think lives will be saved,” she said. “It’s a step in saving the lives of our loved ones.”

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