Starting today, doctors and pharmacies throughout the state of Florida will be able to look up patients in a database before writing a prescription for pain medication. The hotly contested prescription drug database went into effect today, after years of debate over Florida’s prescription drug addiction problems and patient’s privacy rights. The database will track prescriptions written to patients and filled at pharmacies for a host of addictive medications, which are illegal to possess without a valid prescription.
The database is aimed at eradicating the problem of “doctor shopping,” a practice that is common in Palm Beach County. The way that doctor shopping works is that a person goes to numerous doctors complaining of pain. Then, the doctors each write the same person pain medication prescriptions, not knowing that they have been prescribed medication from other doctors. The patient then often brings the prescriptions to different pharmacies so that the multiple prescriptions are not uncovered. Patients sometimes do this because they have an addiction to the prescription medication. Other people do this to sell the narcotic medications illegally on the street. The most common drug abused in this manner in Palm Beach County is oxycodone, a powerful prescription narcotic pill.
Currently, doctors and pharmacies are not required to consult the database before writing or filling a prescription, even one for oxycodone or other addictive narcotics. According to the Palm Beach Post, legislators are now saying that they will attempt to pass laws by next year making this a requirement.
The database raises numerous concerns in the world of criminal law. For instance, once a doctor or pharmacy learns of possible doctor shopping via the database, will they then communicate this concern to law enforcement? Will the police or the government be able to gain access to the database to use it against a patient? Will they need to have a search warrant reviewed and approved by a judge in order to do so? Time will tell as criminal cases come in and the legal issues are contested in the court system.