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June 15, 2005

Florida's New Drug Plan

Florida has a new state drug policy that will start on July 1st. "To save $292 million in the state's $2.5 billion drug program for the poor and disabled, Gov. Jeb Bush's administration persuaded the Florida Legislature this spring to impose strict limits on patient access to mental health drugs. It includes making brand-name drugs less accessible and requiring the poor and disabled to start off on the cheapest drugs first" (Hollis 2005). The theory is that psychiatrists would prescribe the cheapest drug that could work for each mental disorder and test each one up the ladder until the least expensive one that helped was found.

Whether this law will only affect new Medicaid patients is something that has not been answered by state officials yet. But if the legislature decided to have the new drug policy affect current Medicaid patients the results could be rather unfortunate. Those who are currently taking the medications that worked for them may be forced to give up the medication that helped them most in favor of a cheaper drug that treats for the same thing.

"Before the changes take place July 1, the state's current list of about 3,000 available drugs will be whittled down by a panel of pharmacists and the state Agency for Health Care Administration, based on price negotiations with drug makers and the clinical value of the drugs. 'If access to these drugs is restricted, people are going to become psychotic," Symons said. "It's complicated getting the medications just right. With these drugs, they can throw a monkey wrench in the body chemistry and set off firestorms in the brain that take months to figure out.'" (Hollis, 2005).

This will be the first time that psychotropic drugs will be restricted in the same way that other Medicaid medications are. The amount of brand name medications will be restricted as well. Many think that this will actually cost the state more money in terms of psychiatric visits, multiple drug changes, and the potential emergency room crises that might happen for those forced to try a medication that does not help them control their disorder.

The source of this article was the Sun-Sentinel company.

For more information on Bipolar Disorder Advocacy go to: http://www.moodswing.org/advocacy.htm

For more information on Bipolar Disorder medication go to: http://www.moodswing.org/meds.html

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