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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) – A modified bill designed to crack down on pill mills and ‘doctor shopping’ in the state passed a House panel on Tuesday with an important key proposal left off.

Rep. Mike Fasano’s bill originally would have required doctors and pharmacists to check the now-voluntary Prescription Drug Monitoring Program; a database that monitors who’s getting prescriptions in Florida. The idea was that doctors and pharmacists can use the database to spot bogus patients getting too many drugs.

Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, a physician and Ponte Vedra Beach Republican, said they removed the proposal because doctor groups said the requirement would be too onerous on busy doctors. Renuart successfully offered an amendment last week that stripped the requirement out of the bill.

“I think it’s important (but) I don’t believe in mandating it,” he said of the system, which takes about 30 seconds to check a patient’s prescription history.

The House Health and Human Services committee OK’d the bill (HB 831) by a 16-2 vote. Republican Reps. John Tobia of Melbourne Beach and John Wood of Haines City opposed the measure.

Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican and early champion of the nearly three-year-old tracking system, said he hopes the House eventually accepts a Senate proposal that requires checking the database at least for new patients.

“People are doctor shopping, and the first line of defense is the doctor,” Fasano said after the meeting.

The current version of the House bill keeps two other changes: It reduces the requirement to enter prescriptions into the database to two days from seven days and it would allow pharmaceutical companies to help fund the program. It currently gets no state money.

The system, which went live in September 2011, was designed to help crack down on the “pill mills” selling mostly painkillers to drug dealers and addicts. Law enforcement officials have said the inability to track prescriptions contributed to Florida becoming ground zero for prescription drug abuse.

Rep. Joe Gibbons, a Hallandale Beach Democrat, said the parking lot of pill mills in Broward County once were filled with cars bearing Kentucky license plates. “People would come from all over because it was so easy to get prescription drugs there,” he said.

Rep. Cary Pigman, an Avon Park Republican and emergency room doctor, “lamented” the removal of the requirement for doctors to check the database before writing prescriptions. Last weekend, he said he wrote a painkiller prescription for a “very pleasant patient.”

Pigman later got a call from the pharmacist who checked the database. The same patient had gotten a prescription for 100 pills the Friday before, he was told.

“I didn’t take that 15 seconds I should have,” he said. “We physicians … often need a kick in the pants.”

The bill now goes to the House floor.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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