Florida gov gets earful over proposed cut to drug monitoring system

Over the last few days, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been a subject for conversation among some of his fellow governors.

Following news of Florida’s rejection of $2 billion in federal grants for high-speed rail, governors from Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Maryland sent letters asking US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for those funds.

And in a statement issued earlier this morning, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is taking Gov. Scott to task over another program cut: a state prescription drug monitoring system.

Also known as PDMPs, Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs allow physicians and pharmacists to log each filled prescription into a state database to help medical professionals prevent abusers from obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors.

According to figures from the National Conference of State Legislatures, 39 states have initiated such programs, and many states are working to setup these databases to communicate with other states to prevent cross-border smuggling of drugs like OxyCotin and Xanax.

In a letter to Gov. Scott, Gov. Beshear wrote that despite the tough economic times facing Florida, “protecting the safety of Americans…must remain a priority for governors. I implore you to reconsider your decision, and implement this life-saving program.”

Kentucky’s Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo was a little more direct, telling the St. Petersburg Times, “I don’t think your governor understands the impact Florida’s pill mills are having outside the state…If there’s no prescription drug monitoring program in Florida, I’m toying with putting a billboard just over your state line that says ‘Welcome to the Oxy-tourism Capital of the World.’ ”

Kentucky officials believe that 60 percent of the region’s illegal prescription pills come from Florida and Kentucky State Police report that more than 500 arrests have been made in Eastern Kentucky in 2009 for those who had traveled to Florida for such purposes.

To combat misuse of prescription drugs from sources within the state, Kentucky implemented the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System (KASPER) in 1999.

“I would be glad to travel to meet with you wherever and whenever convenient for you, including in your home state,” Gov. Beshear’s letter concluded. “Meeting with you to convince you of the importance of this system is of highest priority to me.”

Details have been scant in explaining why the program has been targeted. But most PDMPs are budget neutral, or nearly budget neutral, due to amount of grants available from the federal government. Florida’s program was estimated to cost $1.2 million in upfront costs with annual maintenance costs estimated to be around $500,000.

Elected officials in Florida have vowed to move forward with the program despite Gov. Scott’s plans to kill the system. Since the money has been allocated for funding a PDMP, it would require approval from the legislature to erase, the Miami Herald reported.

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