FL nurse practitioners fight for right to prescribe controlled substances

Right now, Florida is one of only a handful of states that don't allow nurse practitioners to write prescriptions for controlled substances. Though legislators have filed a bill that would permit them to do so for 14 straight years, resistance from the Florida Medical Association has helped to shoot it down each and every time.

This year, however, the state's nurse practitioners are getting tough, vowing to get the bill passed, or possibly even to file a restriction of trade lawsuit against the medical association. They say they're sick of tracking down doctors to get controlled substance prescriptions signed, which according to one study, consumes eight hours per week that could be spent on patient care.

The problem is particularly vexing for people living in rural areas, and uninsured people using free clinics, where nurse practitioners do most of the primary care. When there's no doctor present, NPs say, they often have to send a patient to the emergency department if a patient truly needs a controlled med.

Nurse practitioners contend that physicians want to keep the restrictions in place to defend their turf and protect their income. The medical association, meanwhile, argues that NPs shouldn't prescribe these drugs because they don't have as much training in pain medicine as doctors.

To learn more about this conflict:
- read this Associated Press piece

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