Drug Diversion and Abuse: Florida Prescription Drug Abuse Calls for a PMP

Cmdr John Burke
Published Online: Wednesday, October 1, 2008
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John Burke, commander of the Warren County, Ohio, drug task force and retired commander of the Cincinnati Police Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad, is a 40-year veteran of law enforcement. Cmdr Burke also is the current president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. For information, he can be reached by e-mail at , via the Web site www.rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.


The state of Florida is one of the most frequently visited locations in our country-and for good reason. Tourists love to visit Florida for its great weather that includes ample sunshine, beautiful beaches that open up to tremendous ocean views, inland waterways, and theme parks like Disney, SeaWorld, and others.

In all of its tremendous resources, which include the friendly people who live there, Florida has a significant problem that can be helped with the simple assistance of the state legislature. Florida is in the midst of a huge prescription drug abuse problem that does not seem to be getting any better.

I know this from the fact that I do a lot of traveling in America, and, as president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), I have a great Florida resource in Sgt Lisa McElhaney of the Broward County Sheriff's Office that serves Ft Lauderdale. Sgt McElhaney is in charge of the agency's pharmaceutical unit, which, like most law enforcement squads, is understaffed and overworked. Sgt McElhaney can tell you about the problems in Florida, which have gotten out of hand, in her area in particular.

To add to this information, however, my agency in southwestern Ohio has recently completed some very large organized crime investigations that stretched all the way to Florida. In addition, Kentucky and other southern states are combating the same influx of prescription drugs that have roots in the Sunshine State. Many of those obtaining the drugs for resale are former residents of Kentucky and Ohio and have found Florida an easy venue to obtain painkillers that bring many dollars back home where eager criminals wait for their next shipment.

One big reason for this is that Ohio and Kentucky have state-of-the-art prescription- monitoring programs (PMPs), which are effectively dealing with the rising abuse of pharmaceuticals in their respective states. Florida, after 2 tries, has yet to pass legislation to introduce a PMP into the state and start to put a damper on the abuse and addiction that lives there. This is in spite of the fact that OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma has offered startup funding for the program, and the good representatives of Florida continue to fail to get it done.

Using Ohio and Kentucky as examples, when a PMP is done right, it benefits all residents of the state, as it tends to reduce Medicaid and workers' compensation insurance fraud, along with private insurance used to scam hundreds of thousands of dosage units from unknowing prescribers and dispensers.

PMPs are an important tool for prescribers, dispensers, and law enforcement in combating the prescription drug abuse problem. Florida is full of good prescribers, dispensers, and law enforcement officers who want to do the right thing and get a better handle on the problem. A recent statistic shows that more people die in Florida due to prescription drug overdoses than almost all of the illegal substances combined.

With all of these events happening in the great state of Florida, why is the legislature failing to act? I would urge Florida legislators to come to Kentucky or Ohio and see what our programs are about, and then go back and duplicate the best features and make a serious impact on a problem out of control in many parts of the state. I have always said that a good PMP will pay for itself in the reduction of state-funded insurance like Medicaid and workers' compensation, but more importantly, it might just save some lives along the way. Now that is something that makes a serious difference.

It is time for Florida's legislators to step up to the plate and hit a home run by aggressively passing a quality PMP in Florida. Undoubtedly, lives in Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, and many other states are depending on you, as legislators, to do what is right.



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