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Bill To Tighten Opioid Limits Headed To State Senate floor

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Daylina Miller/Health News Florida
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The sponsor of the Florida Senate's bill to combat the state's opioid crisis says it remains a work in progress even after passing its final committee.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto says she continues to talk with Gov. Rick Scott's office and medical groups about their concerns with the bill (SB 8). The proposed legislation was temporarily postponed in two previous meetings by the Rules Committee, but was taken up on Thursday and passed. It now heads to the Senate floor, but Benaquisto, a Republican from Fort Myers, said it likely won't be immediately considered as final details remain to be worked out.

"The reason it is moving out of committee now is so that it will be in a position where it will be ready when the time is right," she says. "I want to get to a place where everyone is comfortable."

Some pushback remains from some in the medical community, who consider the three-day limit on most initial prescriptions for Schedule II painkillers like Oxycontin and Fentanyl dealing with acute pain to be too arbitrary. It would be extended to seven days in certain cases provided it is documented and there is a lack of an alternative treatment.

Jeff Scott, who represents the Florida Medical Association, said during the hearing that he would like to see exceptions made for those who have undergone surgery and for trauma patients. Scott noted that there are certain procedures where a patient could be in an intensive care unit for weeks.

Benaquisto said a compromise could be reached for those dealing with sub-acute pain and traumatic injuries.

"We've looked at a lot of things but some would not be appropriate to what we want to accomplish because they are too permissive," she says. "There is an acknowledgement that those with severe traumatic injury need to be put in a position where they can heal properly."

The House's version of the bill (HB 21) has passed two committees and awaits action by the Health & Human Services Committee. Scott declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency last May. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported a 35 percent increase in opioid-related deaths from 2015 to 2016. Opioids were identified as either the cause of death or were present in the deceased person's system in 5,725 cases.