Over the last several years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of arrests of people in Florida for possession, sale and trafficking involving prescription narcotics like Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Roxycontin and Oxycontin. These drug crimes involving prescription pills have increased at a much greater rate than the more traditional drug crimes involving marijuana, cocaine, heroin and crack.
The prescription pill criminal cases come in many forms. One area that has been more difficult for the police to detect is referred to as doctor shopping. A common approach by people looking for prescription painkillers like Hydrocodone and Oxycodone is to set up multiple appointments with different doctors, complain of pain and get prescriptions for pain pills from each doctor. Of course, the patient does not tell each doctor that he is seeing the other ones for the same purpose of getting the pain pill prescriptions. The patient then gets the prescriptions from the various doctors, fills them at different drug stores and obtains a large quantity of pills to use and/or re-sell. This was difficult for the doctors, pharmacists and the police to detect because there was no way for one doctor to know if a patient has seen a similar doctor recently and received a similar prescription unless the patient disclosed that information.
As a result, Florida made it illegal to go to multiple doctors within a 30 day period and get similar pain pill prescriptions without telling the doctors of the patient’s visit(s) to the other doctor(s). This is called doctor shopping, and it has become a felony crime in Florida. However, this relatively new law did not make it any easier for police or doctors to catch people doctor shopping. The police would only solve such a crime if they found the various prescriptions or pill bottles with the different doctors’ names and dates or otherwise came across this information, which was unlikely.
In order to give the police, doctors and pharmacists a better tool to stop doctor shopping for pain pills, Florida established a statewide database where doctors are required to input information about pain pill prescriptions for their patients. As of now, doctors in Florida are not required to check the database to see if a patient recently obtained a similar prescription, so the law has a major flaw. However, next year the law is supposed to require that doctors check the database before providing a controlled substance prescription to make sure the patient is not doctor shopping. Once this requirement becomes effective, it will be much more difficult for people to obtain pain pills and other controlled substances by doctor shopping.
In addition to Florida, most of the other states now have a prescription drug database. However, it is not clear from the recent Jacksonville article whether Florida doctors can check the database from other states. If not, there is another flaw that is likely to affect police, doctors and pharmacists in Jacksonville. Since Jacksonville is so close to the Georgia border, a person may be able to get pain pill prescriptions from doctors in Florida and Georgia without each doctor knowing of the other if the doctors do not have access to prescription database information in the other state.