November 29, 2012

E-FORCSE Database is a Backdoor in for DEA, DOH and AG Investigations

Until recently, Florida had been the favored choice for pill mills and addicts because of its weak oversight of pain management clinics and physician dispensing habits. In 2011, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi launched the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) in an effort to improve public safety and reduce the states high rate of prescription drug related deaths. Since the launch of the program, significant changes have been made that increase the requirements for physicians prescribing highly abusive controlled substances such as Vicodin, Xanax and Oxycontin. The most significant change was the implementation of the Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation database (E-FORCSE) which requires health practitioners to report prescribing and dispensing information of controlled substances within seven days after being dispensed.

Verifying patient’s information in E-FORCSE prior to prescribing is not mandatory by state law. Although a useful tool in helping doctors identify patients who may be diverting controlled substances to the illegal drug market, a majority of prescribers do not actively use E-FORCSE as a preventative measure. A recent Tampa Bay Times investigation revealed that of the 48 million controlled substance prescriptions written since the inception of the database, only 2.5% of prescribers consulted the database prior to writing prescriptions. The investigation also revealed fewer than 1 in 12 has ever used the database.

Why should health practitioners use the database?

Doctors are increasingly becoming subject to investigations and administrative complaints as a result of prescriptions written to unsuspected addicts and dealers. As part of the PDMP, a Drug Enforcement Strike Force was created not only to identify and prosecute drug traffickers, addicts and illegal pill mills, but also health practitioners who prescribe and dispense controlled substances outside the standard of care or violate state laws. The Florida Surgeon General has been aggressively suspending practitioners' licenses and is encouraging the Board of Medicine and Board of Pharmacy to take an equally aggressive approach.

Since the program’s inception one year ago, there has been a significant reduction in the number of pill mills in business and now it seems as though lawmakers and enforcement agencies have set their sights on health practitioners to clean up the rest of the problem. The PDMP, through the use of the strike force, E-FORCSE database and InSite database, have joined together and combined their intelligence to aggressively prosecute health practitioners who violate the standard of care or prescribe to "doctor shopping" patients. E-FORCSE is HIPAA compliant and allows the task force, the Florida Department of Health and the Drug Enforcement Administration to view health practitioners prescribing information without a warrant, making it faster and easier for agencies to red-flag and investigate practitioners with irregular or excessive prescribing habits.

While not mandatory by state law, several counties and cities have ordinances requiring some physicians and clinics to review and retain patient information from E-FORCSE prior to prescribing or dispensing a controlled substance. It seems as though similar laws will soon become effective at the state level.

With frequent changes in the law and harsher penalties, health practitioners must remain aware of the rules that govern their practice and need to take a proactive approach in protecting their license and practice. Reviewing patient information on E-FORCSE prior to prescribing highly addictive controlled substances is one such proactive measure that could be a very useful defense in the unfortunate event that a practitioner faces licensing action.

If you have received a letter of investigation, administrative complaint, or summary suspension or would like additional information, please contact our professional licensing attorneys at Chapman Law GroupFor over 20 years, we have been defending health professionals and would be honored to assist you.

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