Florida public policy officials are not adequately addressing the prescription drug overdose problem, according to the Prevention Status Reports released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday.
The studies look at 10 public health problems and rank all 50 states on how well policies solve those issues. They identify specific factors that contribute to solving the problems and rank states as either green, yellow or red on those specific policy solutions.
"The ratings reflect the status of policies and practices and do not reflect the status of efforts of state health departments, other state agencies, or any other organization to establish or strengthen those policies or practices," the report clarifies.
Two policy solutions to the prescription drug overdose problem identified in the report are requiring pharmacies to submit drug dispensing data to the prescription drug monitoring program; and requiring prescribers to consult the prescription drug monitoring program before prescribing addicting painkillers, as well as every three months thereafter.
Florida was ranked yellow, the medium grade, for requiring timely submission of drug dispensing data to PDMPs. The CDC said the state received that ranking because as of July 2015, Florida required that dispensing data be submitted to the PDMP within seven days. To achieve a green rating, Florida would have to require that information be submitted within 24 hours of dispensing the drug.
Florida was ranked red, the worst grade, on consulting the patient's PDMP history before initially prescribing opioid pain relievers and benzodiazepines. Florida does not require prescribers to consult the PDMP before initially prescribing drugs. Unless prescribers consult the PDMP before prescribing addictive medications, the PDMP is useless, the CDC wrote.
"A PDMP is useful to healthcare providers only if they check the system before prescribing, and checking the PDMP prior to prescribing opioid pain relievers and benzodiazapines is particularly important," the report says. "States have sought to increase PDMP use by requiring providers to consult the PDMP before initially prescribing opioids and benzodiazapines. These policies have significant potential for maximizing the usefulness and promise of PDMPs as a clinical decision support tool."
Manatee County has been hit particularly hard by the heroin epidemic, which officials largely blame on the irresponsible prescribing of addictive painkillers. The medical examiner estimates that more than 150 people died in Manatee and Sarasota in 2015 of an overdose on heroin or fentanyl, another deadly opioid.
Florida also received low ratings for preventing motor vehicle injuries. It had green for requiring a learner's permit for 12 months before allowing people to apply for a driver's license.
It was ranked yellow for not being strict enough on mandating ignition interlocks for people formerly convicted of alcohol-impaired driving, for not having an early enough curfew for young drivers, for not having a law mandating seatbelts for all seats (Florida's law requires a seatbelt in the front seats) and not making children wait until they're 16 to apply for a learner's permit (Florida allows as early as 14 years old and 7 months).
Finally, Florida was ranked red for only mandating that children ages 5 and younger have to be in a booster seat, rather than the recommended 8 years old and younger, for having no limit on the amount of passengers young drivers can have in the car and for not restricting driving privileges of those younger than 18.
The study also addressed tobacco use; teen pregnancy; nutrition, physical activity and obesity; HIV; heart disease and stroke, healthcare-associated infections, food safety and alcohol-related harms.
You can read the full report here.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter@KateIrby