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W.Va. lawmakers want Fla. to reconsider drug-monitoring plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia lawmakers want Florida's governor to reconsider his plan to drop a prescription monitoring program they say would cut down on pill trafficking.  

Thirteen members of the House of Delegates on Tuesday introduced a resolution (HCR75) asking Republican Gov. Rick Scott not to repeal plans for a computer database that would track all prescriptions filled in Florida.

Florida has become notorious for its "pill mills." It is a destination for people from West Virginia and other Appalachian states who sell and abuse prescription drugs.

West Virginia and 33 other states have monitoring programs, which are meant to help identify doctor shoppers. In 2009, Florida lawmakers approved plans for a database program, but Scott -- a former health care executive who took office in January -- wants to drop the proposal. 

The resolution has been sent to the House Rules Committee. Its lead sponsor, House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, said West Virginia couldn't fight its prescription drug problem all on its own.

"We know that unless we get help from the state of Florida, our ability to interdict [those drugs] is very limited," the Wayne County Democrat said.

Perdue said he is perplexed by Scott's stance.

"He's got blinders on of a size and dimension I cannot imagine," Perdue said.

West Virginia has the nation's highest drug overdose rate, with most deaths involving prescription drugs.

Scott's office did not return a request for comment Tuesday. His spokesman has said in recent interviews that Scott questions the effectiveness of a monitoring program and is worried it could infringe on people's privacy.

The Florida governor's plans have drawn criticism from police and political leaders in West Virginia and Kentucky. Last week, Kentucky Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo told the Lexington Herald-Leader he was "infuriated."

In Florida, lawmakers, law enforcement and the medical community are pushing back at Scott's plans, said Paul Sloan, president of the Florida Society of Pain Management Providers.

"The outcry in the state is massive," Sloan said. "There isn't a legitimate doctor that doesn't support this program." 

The president of the Florida Senate and the state's attorney general are speaking out in favor of the database, he said.

Florida's pill-mill problem stretches far beyond the state's borders, Sloan said.

"I'm very happy to hear that West Virginia's doing this," he said. "We all have this problem. This is not just Florida's problem. And Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee should all be up in arms about this."

West Virginia lawmakers will send copies of the House resolution to Scott and Florida legislative leaders.

Reach Alison Knezevich at alisonk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.

 


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