Florida Proves That (Drug) Money Still Talks

07 May, 2013 Bob Wilson


The Florida Legislature has concluded business for this session. Having amassed a small fortune in contributed drug money from the medical community and prescription drug repackagers, our representatives are now returning home to enjoy the fruits of their labor, content with the knowledge that they gave their drug selling benefactors much of what they paid for.

Unlike previous years, it is not all bad news for Florida taxpayers. It should however, be better news than what it is.

The state failed in a spectacular fashion once again when a bill designed to fund its Prescription Drug Monitoring Program failed to pass in the final hours of this year's session. The bill, SB 1192, had been mired in controversy since a requirement that would have required all doctors to check the database was largely gutted by special interests in the medical community. Doctors, it seems, are apparently too busy to concern themselves with patient health and safety. Turns out that won't be a problem, since the PDMP will likely run out of cash this summer. Separate attempts to change the law to allow funding contributions from drug companies also failed. Drug manufacturer Perdue initially offered $1 million dollars to run the database when it was established last year, but that was rejected by the legislators.

Perdue should have offered to pay the $1 million directly to our legislators. They probably would have happily accepted it and given them whatever they wanted in return.

In the repackaged drug wars, it was a small win for employers and taxpayers, but likely a bigger win for the repackagers and their "prescribing for fun and profit" physician partners. SB 662 was taken through some last minute negotiations that made some significant changes from the original bill's intent. Dispensing physicians will now be limited to charging 112% of AWP based on original NDC numbers, plus an $8.00 dispensing fee. While that is certainly an improvement from the up to 700% markups sometime seen in this state, it still presents a significant difference over traditional pharmacy services. Also, in a key loss for some payers, language that had allowed them to contract at lower rates was struck from state statute. This key point had been the final defense for some payers against the repackagers, as it allowed them to reimburse at the lower negotiated rate. That ability will now be removed. Estimated overall savings from this bill are projected to be around $20,000,000 a year.

My bottom line opinion - SB 662 is an improvement that will save money in the short term, but since those savings may effectively quell the opposition to repackaging and physician dispensing, that industry is likely insured of a higher than competitive markup in Florida for many years to come.

We should have done better. We should demand better. But when your representatives are busy lining their political pockets with drug money, it is difficult to achieve anything else. While it is true that money talks, drug money, it turns out, speaks quite loudly.

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