With a nearly unanimous vote, the House on Thursday approved a sweeping bill to combat Florida' prescription drug abuse epidemic.
"This bill is perhaps, perhaps, even bigger than job creation," said Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey. "We will not let a handful of drug dealers to bring our people to their knees."
Among other things, HB 7095, run by Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, expands penalties for pill mill operators, requires reporting narcotics prescriptions to a state database in seven days instead of 15, prohibits doctors and some small pharmacies from dispensing narcotics, requires tracking of wholesale distribution of narcotics and limits distribution to 5,000 doses per month per pharmacy.
Schenck called it the country's strongest legislation aimed at curbing abuse of powerful and addictive painkillers.
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The bill has its critics. Community pharmacy owners say it will hurt their businesses and supporters of the prescription drug database don't like that it provides no expanded funding for the program.
But representatives said the bill goes a long way toward combatting a nationwide problem that has its epicenter in Florida.
"Some of us really wanted the prescription database fully funded," said Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. But the final legislation considered on the floor represented compromise, he said. "This bill has come a long way from when it first presented itself to us."
As originally crafted, the bill called for repeal of the prescription drug monitoring database, prohibited nearly all small pharamacies from dispensing narcotics, and didn't include measures requested by Attorney General Pam Bondi to make it easier to charge and penalize pill mill operators.
"I've never seen a bill here that I've liked completely, other than my own," said Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City. "This bill will do great, great things to protect our young kids."
Legg also acknowledged there were things about the bill that he didn't like. But he said those that don't want it to pass don't like it "because it's not their solution."
A Senate bill sponsored by Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, increases funding options for the prescription drug monitoring database.
The House passed the bill by a vote of 116 to 1. Only Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne, voted against it.