Florida Gov Promises Painkiller Plan; Is Obama's Drug Czar Jumping Ship?

By Dirk Hanson 04/25/11

A White House mission to stem painkiller abuse puts the heat on Florida's Tea Party Governor, while U.S. Drug Czar Kerlikowske may flee D.C. to become Chicago's top cop.

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Last Tuesday’s White House announcement of a war on the misuse of prescription painkillers (see our earlier story) is putting increasing pressure on Florida “to tackle its reputation as the nation’s pill mill,” according to Julian Pecquet of the political web site The Hill. After staunchly resisting a bipartisan plan to establish a Florida database to track prescription drugs, (see our previous coverage) Florida's Tea Party Governor Rick Scott finally capitulated in the face of public and political pressure and approved the measure. His prior opposition “did not endear him to members of both parties from states that are seeing their teenagers get addicted to painkillers arriving from the Sunshine State,” writes Pecquet. Stressing this message, U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky) had earlier written to his Republican colleague: “Governor, your state, more than any other, must take this crisis seriously.” In testimony last week before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Governor Scott “couldn’t resist a dig at the privacy concerns he sees with prescription drug monitoring,” and referenced a 2009 hacker attack on the state of Virginia’s prescription drug database. According to the governor, the hackers made off with the medical records of 8 million patients, and left a ransom note. The PolitiFact website confirmed that the Virginia database had been breached, but said there was no evidence that the hackers had been able to view any patient records.  For his part, Rep. Rogers said he was “glad Governor Scott has finally seen the light.”

On a related note, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, the White House point man for the announcement of a crackdown on painkillers, appears to be on the verge of accepting an offer to become Chicago’s new top cop. AP is reporting that Kerlikowske “interviewed for the Chicago police superintendent's job with both mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and the police board in the last week.” There’s something about being Drug Czar that seems to make people want to move on to greener pastures in a hurry. Could it be the strain of enforcing a drug policy that is, to put it charitably, crazy and incoherent?

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]