As Florida's opioid addiction epidemic continues to rage, some state legislators are proposing stemming unauthorized use of prescription painkillers by requiring pharmacies to sell drug lock boxes.

  • Lock boxes use combination or key locks
  • Hope to prevent patient's friends or family from stealing drugs
  • Independent pharmacies could struggle to stock lock boxes

The boxes, which take the form of plastic containers and canvas bags, have combination or key locks that can make it difficult for a patient's friends or relatives to easily swipe their medications. Under recently-filed Democratic legislation (SB 1372/HB 605), every pharmacy in the state would have to stock the devices.

The proposal amounts to another potential weapon in the state's war on the opioid crisis, which claimed the lives of 6,000 Floridians in 2016.

"I think I can speak for all of us," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said at a recent meeting of the White House's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis. "We don't sleep at night over this issue, to this day, and when we start sleeping well at night we're not doing our jobs."

But while the requirement might not amount to much of a burden for chain pharmacies, many independent pharmacies could be hard-pressed to stock drug lock boxes without compromising their bottom lines.

"If the state wants to pay for it, if they want to mandate it, fine, but I don't think that's going to happen," predicted Danny Jackson, who owns Stewart's Pharmacy in Tallahassee.

"To be mandated to stock something like that under the profit margin that we're working on - that's controlled by the PBMs (pharmacy benefit managers), we have very little control over our profit margin - and it just throws something on independent pharmacies to have to inventory like that, I think they really haven't thought that through," he said, referring to the legislation's sponsors.

Jackson added that, in his view, relatively few opioid addicts who illegally use prescription painkillers are stealing from friends and family. Drug dealers have increasingly expanded their offerings to include pills like Vicodin, OxyContin and Fentanyl, satisfying a growing public appetite.

The legislation will be considered during Florida's 2018 legislative session, which begins Jan. 9.