Doctor, patient frustration over pain med access leads to pharmacy rule change

Pharmacy rule changeThe Florida Board of Pharmacy recently approved a rule change designed to help patients get the pain medications they need.

The rule, which grew out of claims from frustrated patients and their physicians, is aimed at training pharmacists to change the way they look at prescribing controlled substances – from one of finding reasons to reject prescriptions, to one of making sure patients get the medications they need.

The board, in writing its rule, said “pharmacists should not fear disciplinary action from the board, or other state regulatory or enforcement agencies, for dispensing controlled substances for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice.”

However, pharmacists still must take proper steps to determine that the prescription was issued for a legitimate medical purpose. One way would be to access the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program’s database.

If a pharmacist believes that a prescriber is involved in the diversion of controlled substances, he or she has the obligation to report the prescriber to the Florida Department of Health.

The rule change comes in response to growing complaints from patients, doctors and pharmacists after a federal crackdown on so-called “pill mills” that earned Florida a reputation as being the epicenter of a prescription drug epidemic. As a result of that crackdown, many pharmacies had started to refuse to fill prescriptions fearing they would become the target of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

As part of the newly proposed rule, the board also is requiring that all pharmacists take a two-hour continuing education course on the Validation of Prescriptions for Controlled Substances during the biennium ending Sept. 30, 2017.

The rule change isn’t final and must go through a regulatory approval process before being implemented.

Earlier this year, the Florida Board of Pharmacy noted that many physicians were complaining that pharmacists were not filling controlled substance prescriptions if the physician was not listed as a controlled substance prescriber on the practitioner profile on the Florida Department of Health’s website.

The board pointed out that just because a physician isn’t listed it doesn’t mean he or she can not prescribe controlled substances.

“This requirement is applicable only to those physicians that are treating patients for chronic nonmalignant pain. Therefore, physicians that are not treating patients for chronic nonmalignant pain are not required to register and may continue prescribing controlled substances for other diagnoses,” the board noted.

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale represents physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare providers facing audits and investigations by the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as in all phases of disciplinary matters before the Board of Pharmacy. Our team can help you to find solutions to your problems at the start of an investigation – before it’s too late.