A Florida law mandating that hospice and palliative-care physicians check a statewide database to ensure patients aren’t shopping around for opioids is “stupid,” state Rep. Cary Pigman said Thursday.
Pigman, an Avon Park Republican and emergency-room physician, is sponsoring a bill (HB 375) that would eliminate the database-check requirement for patients who have been admitted to hospice.
The House Health & Human Services Committee approved the measure Thursday, despite opposition from Florida Right to Life.
In response to the state’s opioid crisis, the Legislature last year passed a sweeping law that requires physicians to check a database before prescribing controlled substances. Also, it placed prescribing limits on opioids and required physicians who prescribe the substances to enter certain information into the database.
The Legislature also agreed to exclude certain patients from the prescription limits, including terminal patients, cancer patients and patients who suffer trauma.
Pigman said lawmakers did not include a corresponding exemption for physicians who prescribe opioids to those patients.
As a result, he said hospice physicians and hospice pharmacies have been required to check the database. If we “truly care about access to care, we will remove these wasteful endeavors,” Pigman told committee members.
The Senate is considering a similar proposal (SB 592). J.G. Halisky, vice president for legislative affairs for Florida Right to Life, sent a letter this week asking lawmakers to oppose the bill, noting that his group believes terminally ill patients deserve protection from intentional or accidental overdoses of opioids.
“The position of Florida Right to Life is not one of wanting to deny anyone palliative care. Rather, it is our concern to make sure that patients’ deaths are not premature,” Halisky wrote in the letter. “In comparison to the possibility of hastening death where a patient is over-prescribed opioids, what is a brief precheck to make sure the patient is not being given more opioids than necessary to accomplish palliation?”