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On Monday morning, Greg Allen reported on Florida’s prescription drug abuse problem for Morning Edition. Allen calls Florida the epicenter of the abuse epidemic, and then details Florida Governor Rick Scott’s plans to cut a proposed prescription tracking program.
But recently, Gov. Rick Scott has come out foursquare against it. Scott hasn’t said much about why he wants to kill it. When pressed at a recent news conference, he said: “I believe it’s an invasion of privacy and … it appears that the money’s been wasted.”
An official with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Foundation says the governor’s accusation is false and that the group has already raised enough money to start up the state database.
Scott’s proposal has also spurred repeated calls from state and federal officials in Kentucky who say shutting down the origin of the pill pipeline in Florida will curb prescription abuse in the commonwealth.
Attorney General Jack Conway is the latest Kentucky official to ask Florida Governor Rick Scott not to cut a not-yet-implemented prescription pill tracking system.
The program is similar to the KASPER system in Kentucky, which Conway and others say has helped stop pill mills from distributing prescription drugs in the commonwealth. It’s believed that many of the prescriptions abused in Kentucky come from Florida. Governor Steve Beshear, Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo, Congressman Hal Rogers and U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske have all encouraged Scott to reconsider cutting the program. In his latest monthly column, Conway joined the call:
The bottom line is that we need to stop illicit prescription pills at their source; states like Florida and Georgia that do not have prescription drug monitoring programs in place. Programs like Kentucky’s KASPER system are needed, warranted and must be implemented in all 50 states. Until that happens, prescription drug abuse will continue to ravage our families and our kids.
Governor Steve Beshear is the latest Kentucky official to ask Florida Governor Rick Scott to rethink his plans to cut a prescription drug tracking system.
It’s estimated that many of the prescription pills that are abused in eastern Kentucky come from Florida. In 2009, that state’s legislature approved a system to track prescriptions and reduce the number of so-called pill mills.
As part of his plan to cut spending, Governor Scott has proposed cutting the program. That first prompted a response from Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, who asked his fellow Republican Scott to reconsider, saying that Kentuckians and Floridians alike are dying of prescription drug overdoses.
In a letter released Tuesday, Beshear echoed those sentiments. Kentucky has a prescription tracking system, and Beshear credits it for pushing pill mills out of the commonwealth.
A Greenup County sheriff has also reportedly taken issue with Scott’s plans to cancel the tracking program.
Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky is asking Florida Governor Rick Scott to back off from his plan to repeal a yet-to-be-implemented prescription pill monitoring program.
Scott has asked the Florida legislature to cancel the program before it launches. The program was approved in 2009 and is meant to crack down on so-called pill mills that supply drug dealers and addicts with prescriptions.
Both Rogers and Scott are Republicans, and Rogers says residents of his district and of Florida are dying from overdosing on drugs that originate from pill mills.
Scott’s request to kill the program is part of his plan to cut money from the Florida state budget, but the prescription tracking system would not be funded by the state. A spokesperson for Scott says the program also raises privacy concerns.
(Some information provided by the Associated Press)
Late last year, Kentucky State Police trooper John Hawkins told WFPL the increase in meth lab busts was so sharp that police were on track to find more than one thousand before the end of the year.
Kentucky State Police (KSP) released the 2010 methamphetamine lab statistics today and the number indicates an all-time high in the Commonwealth. KSP reports that there were 1,080 meth labs found during 2010, exceeding all previous year totals.
The top five counties with the highest incidents of meth lab occurrences were Jefferson (154 labs), Laurel (113 labs), Warren (70 labs), Barren (57 labs) and Hardin (53).
There’s legislation pending in the General Assembly that would make decongestant and meth ingredient pseudoephedrine available by prescription only. The bill has the support of many law enforcement officials (but not all), and it has a number of opponents as well. It’s not clear whether the bill will pass both chambers of the General Assembly, but if it does, it’s also not clear whether Governor Steve Beshear will sign it.
Legislation that would make over-the-counter cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine prescription-only is making its way through the General Assembly. Here’s the legislative update and the reaction from one law enforcement official.
The issue has divided lawmakers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and law enforcement officials, and it will be interesting to see if Kentucky follows the example set by Oregon and Mississippi.
Kentucky journalist Jim Higdon‘s nonfiction book about the Cornbread Mafia is tentatively set to be published next year under the Globe/Pequot imprint Lyons Press.
In 1989, federal investigators called the Marion County-based Cornbread Mafia the largest domestic marijuana producing organization. The release date for Higdon’s book is April 20th, 2012. Seriously.
The bill that would make over the counter cold medicine that could be used to make meth prescription-only is making its way through the General Assembly, and while law enforcement officials generally favor the legislation, it’s being met with stiff opposition from drug manufacturers (the ones who make the legal drugs. Meth manufactureres likely oppose the bill as well, they probably don’t hire lobbyists).
Mississippi and Oregon have seen a prescription law lead to a drop in meth lab busts. And there’s evidence that merely tracking cold medicine purchases is not only ineffective, but makes matters worse by creating an illegal market for Sudafed, etc. (Prescription drug abuse is also a continuing problem in the U.S.)
What I don’t often hear from officials on either side of the debate is some response or echoing of the most common complaint I hear from the public…prescriptions require visits to the doctor. That’s inconvenient, but for many people, it’s impossible. For the uninsured and under insured, a visit to the doctor can break the bank.
The debate on how to fight meth is getting more interesting as more and more states consider prescription-only laws. The question of how to fight a scourge without punishing the innocent is raised constantly, and it’s fascinating to see how various lawmakers answer it.
Programs that track the purchase of cold medicine that may be used to make meth is not stopping the meth trade. In fact, it’s creating more criminals.
That’s what the Associated Press found in a recent investigation. The programs are designed to keep individuals from purchasing enough over the counter drugs to make meth. For years, manufacturers sidestepped these laws by recruiting smurfs (sometimes called smurfers). The AP reveals that not only does smurfing increase several years after a tracking system is put in place in a state, but the smurfs have created a sizeable illegal market for legal drugs.
The stricter alternative is to make certain cold medicines prescription-only. But scheduling drugs creates a new set of problems:
Oregon began requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine products in 2006. Mississippi became the second state to do so in July, and Missouri’s governor is asking lawmakers to follow suit in 2011.
If more states do the same, it could be devastating for makers of cold and sinus pills. The pseudoephedrine market is estimated at more than $550 million annually.
Opponents of prescription laws say they punish mostly law-abiding consumers for the crimes of a relative few.
But many law enforcement officials say it’s hard to argue with Oregon’s success. The state had 191 meth incidents in 2005, the year before the prescription-only law. By 2009, it had 12.
The Kentucky State Police released the monthly report on meth lab busts for October this week.
KSP reports that there were 111 meth labs found during the month of October, exceeding all previous monthly totals, bringing the 2010 statewide total to 919.
The last record was set in 2009, when 741 labs were discovered during the course of a year. The state is on track to exceed 1,000 meth labs this year.
The KSP attributes the increase to the availability of meth ingredients. Meth has also become increasingly easy to manufacture. But as we’ve reported on WFPL, it’s impossible to determine how much of the increase in busts should be attributed to an actual increase in manufacturing and how much should be attributed to better law enforcement practices. Most of the law enforcement officers and prosecutors we’ve talked to say it’s certainly a combination of both, but disagree on the proportion.