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Domino/Aronberg Prescription Drug Validation Plan Saves Lives, Protects Privacy, Costs Less

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida's failure to adopt an effective prescription drug validation system has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives. But bipartisan legislation pending in the Legislature would bury Florida's costly crisis of rampant prescription drug fraud and doctor shopping.

"It is time to stop Floridians from dying from illegally obtained prescription drugs," said Rep. Carl Domino, a Jupiter Republican and sponsor of House Bill 143. "New technology is less costly, protects consumer privacy, and is in real time and cannot be defeated by a false identification."

HB 143 and Senate Bill 614, sponsored by Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat, clamp down on fraud and abuse by requiring an innovative but simple-to-use system that would simultaneously protect patients, prescribing pharmacists and health-care professionals, and Florida taxpayers.

The two lawmakers, along with other proponents of their bills came together in the Florida Capitol to discuss how their bills will save lives and money while carefully protecting citizens' privacy rights.

The Domino/Aronberg bills require dispensers to use inexpensive biometric scanning devices -- fingerprints or retinal scans, for example -- to biologically identify people attempting to fill prescriptions for Class II, III or IV controlled substances. These include such powerful painkillers as Vicodin and OxyContin, which law enforcement officials say have become the prescription drugs of choice among teenagers in search of a high.

Too often, however, prescription drug abuse leads to tragedy. In the first half of 2008 alone, the drug oxycodone was involved in more than 10 percent of all 4,055 drug-related deaths in Florida, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission.

"As an assistant attorney general, I investigated the marketing and abuse of controlled substances and saw firsthand the consequences of not having a prescription-drug validation system in place," Sen. Aronberg said. "Ours is not a record that Florida can be proud of, but the legislation that Rep. Domino and I propose would fix this problem and save lives."

When the prescribed system is in place, a Florida Department of Health database will assign a unique identification number to the biometric scan, which will then immediately convey the information back to the prescriber. Names of patients, Social Security numbers and other personal information will never be transmitted to the database.

The unique ID number gives the pharmacist or dispensing health-care professional the ability to immediately determine whether the prescription conflicts or overlaps with other medication delivered to the same person. This also protects pharmacists and doctors from becoming innocent victims of fraud. Moreover, it reduces their legal liability by enabling them to quickly recognize prescriptions that pose an interaction hazard.

Dr. Fred Lippman, of the Nova Southeastern University Health Professions Division in Fort Lauderdale, endorses the Domino/Aronberg proposal for another reason: It protects patients who chronically suffer with severe pain, e.g. cancer patients, and rely on their prescriptions to get through the day.

"Pharmaceutical manufacturers produce a limited supply of pain medications. When legally controlled medications are illegally diverted, the adequate supply for legitimate use is placed at risk," said Lippman, a pharmacist who served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1978 to 1998.

Unlike competing bills addressing the same problem, the Domino/Aronberg plan's costs would largely be absorbed by industry, federal grants and dispensers. Start-up cost for dispensers is estimated at an on average cost of $350. Monthly operational costs are projected to run from $50 to $150, but could be offset by incentives and credits.

A competing bill requires that all costs incurred by the state -- that is, taxpayers -- be reimbursed through federal grants and private funding. In difficult economic times, that's a risky revenue stream.

Fourteen South Florida pharmacies currently are part of a successful pilot program being offered through Bio-Tech Medical Software, Inc. to aid efforts to combat doctor shopping and prescription drug abuse in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

"If everybody - the doctors and pharmacists - were in sync they would have not filled my son's prescriptions and he would be alive. This is not just about me losing my son. It's bigger than that. It is about preventing other families from going through what I went through," said Linda McCalister, a Fort Lauderdale mother whose son died as a result of prescription drug abuse. "There needs to be more regulation of controlled substances. Other states have these databases, and there is no reason we shouldn't have one here."

Contact: Ryan Banfill

(850) 222-1996

SOURCE Bio-Tech Medical Software, Inc.
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