9 Investigates: Fla. Prescription Drug Monitoring Database

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CENTRAL FLORIDA —

Since its creation in 2009 by the state Legislature, the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Database (PDMD) has been accessed more than a million times by physicians and pharmacists looking to verify patient information in an attempt to stem the tide of illegal prescription drugs in the state.

However, the very agencies that benefit most from the increased monitoring do not seem willing to fund the program.

An Eyewitness News investigation into the PDMD reveals that only 21 law enforcement agencies have contributed funding to the statewide program, which relies on grants and donations to continue operating.

Eyewitness News discovered that last year, the PDMD cost $540,158 to operate. While federal grants cover a portion of the cost for maintaining and operating the database, the true cost of the PDMD was supposed to be borne by state law enforcement agencies.

"I don't think that's something that the state would necessarily have to fund if we can get the contributions from where we expected to get it to begin with," said state Rep. Linda Stewart.

In 2013, the Florida Legislature approved a onetime payment of $500,000 (HB 1159) to bolster the PDMD. But, lawmakers stress the real funding needs to come from state and local agencies, since an automatic funding mechanism was not built into the program when it was created.

"I've yet to see Orange County or Orlando, even though there are other cities that are contributing," said Stewart. "I don't know that they are unwilling to pay the price. I don't think it's been made apparent that they should be contributing."

As of Aug. 31, the PDMD had been accessed 373,938 times by health care professionals in Orange County. But, neither the Orlando Police Department nor the Orange County Sheriff's Office has ever contributed to the database.

According to records obtained by Eyewitness News, only eight agencies in Central Florida have given to the PDMD since 2011.

"We are trying, at least in our part, to do what we can," said Lake Mary Deputy Mayor Gary Brender, whose city's police department donated $2,000 in 2012.

Lake Mary's donation came about the same time that the Seminole County Sheriff's Office donated $20,000 to the database. Both agencies used money seized in drug raids to pay for the program without using tax dollars.

"We are using law enforcement trust fund money, which is forfeited money from drug deals to essentially go out and fight drugs," said Brender. "We seize their car and we sell their car, and it goes into the law enforcement trust fund."

Eyewitness News contacted several law enforcement agencies in the Central Florida area to find out why there have been so few donations. The Orange County Sheriff's Office and The City of Orlando Police Department did not provide a reason.

However, Volusia County said it is "aware of the program," but that it does not have extra money to donate to the PDMD.

Since 2009, doctors in Volusia County have accessed the database more than 125,000 times. Brevard County said Sheriff Wayne Ivey is currently in the process of setting up forfeiture funds to be directed to the PDMD. Brevard County doctors have accessed the database more than 200,000 times since 2009.

"We have people coming all the way from West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia across the line to Florida looking for us to fill scripts," said Winter Park Pharmacist Linda Lazuka. "We can tell if a patient was at pharmacy 'A' yesterday and pharmacy 'B' today."

Lazuka is one of the 611 pharmacists in Orange County who has used the system. The PDMD allows pharmacists to quickly check to see how many other places a patient has gone to fill prescriptions for controlled substances. It then gives them the opportunity to check with the prescribing doctor to make sure the prescription is valid if there are concerns.

"It is amazingly accurate," said Lazuka. "But, we're not getting help from the law enforcement people. They need to chip in too."