What Does the Future Hold for Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
By Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Officials with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) listened to suggestions on how to improve the security of its prescription drug monitoring database at a special meeting held on July 8, 2013, in Tallahassee, Florida. This comes after a slew of criticism over the monitoring system. Most recently, the prescription drug monitoring database came under fire after thousands of Floridians’ names, addresses, phone numbers, pharmacies, prescribed drugs and dosages were leaked. The database was originally developed to crack down on Florida’s prescription drug abuse and doctor shopping epidemic.

To read a press release from the Florida DOH on the workshop to improve the database’s security, click here.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Database Called Unconstitutional After Privacy Breach.

The prescription drug monitoring database documents prescriptions for controlled substances. Data searches are supposed to be restricted to physicians, pharmacists and law enforcement officials. Inevitably, in June 2013, one broad database search by a drug enforcement agent looking for suspects produced the confidential medical records of more than 3,300 innocent Floridians. Their medical information was apparently given to defense lawyers. From there a Daytona Beach attorney discovered his name on the list and has filed a lawsuit. The attorney is challenging the constitutionality of the database, calling it an invasion of privacy. To read a previous blog on the privacy breach, click here.

Database Opponents are Calling for an End to Searches by Law Enforcement Officials.

According to an article on the website of WTSP, the Tampa Bay CBS affiliate, at the DOH workshop members of the American Civil Liberties Union requested that law enforcement officials be banned from being able to perform broad searches of the database. It was also suggested that law enforcement officials should have to acquire a warrant or subpoena to access the database.

Click here to read the entire WTSP article.

Future of the Database is Still Unclear.

After the DOH’s workshop, there are sure to be many changes made to the prescription drug monitoring database. DOH officials say they have already taken steps to ensure a privacy breach will not happen again. This includes listing the penalties for disclosing information when a user signs into the database. Administrators also receive a notice when a person uses the system and search results are provided only in an easily disclosable format, like a PDF.

The future policies and procedures for searching the database will soon be decided. As for the future of the database as a whole, that remains in question. According to the Miami Herald, very few doctors and pharmacists have been using the database, the governor does not support it, and it took lawmakers until the eleventh hour of the legislative session to decide to fund the database for one more year. To read the Miami Herald article, click here.

Our Take on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Database.

The prescription database was not intended to be used for criminal prosecution or law enforcement purposes. Yet it is routinely being used to prosecute physicians, pharmacists and pharmacies among others. There is no surprise that there would be “leaks” of the confidential patient information in the database given all of the access and usage in criminal cases.

Contact Health Attorneys Experienced in the Confidentiality of Medical Records.
Our attorneys provide advice and legal opinions on confidentiality of medical records and medical information, including HIPAA Privacy Regulation, and are available to testify as expert witnesses on these issues.
For a list of applicable Federal and Florida legal authorities on "super-confidential" medical information such as mental health, HIV and drug or alcohol treatment records click here.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Do you support Florida’s prescription drug monitoring database? Do you think it should be abolished? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Cox, John Woodrow. “Statewide Pain-Clinic Database May be Abolished.” Miami Herald. (July 6, 2013). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/06/3488469/statewide-pain-clinic-database.html

Heller, Dave. “Florida Tries to Shore Up Security for Controversial Prescription Drug Database.” WTSP. (July 8, 2013). From: http://www.wtsp.com/news/health/article/324067/12/FL-tries-shoring-up-security-for-prescription-drug-database

Florida Department of Health. “Florida Department of Health to Enhance Privacy Safeguards and Accountability for Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Users.” Florida Department of Health. (June 19, 2013). From: http://newsroom.doh.state.fl.us/wp-content/uploads/newsroom/2013/05/061913PDMPSafeguards1.pdf

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

Tag Words: Privacy breach, Florida prescription drug database, prescription drug database, Department of Health (DOH), Prescription drug monitoring program, Florida prescription drug monitoring program, data leaked, Florida pill mill, pill mill, pill mill data, confidential information, medical information, medical records, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), HIPAA privacy regulation, pharmacy, pharmacists, physicians, prescriptions, defense attorney, defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, The Health Law Firm

"The Health Law Firm" is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. - The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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