Florida undecided as states sue over costly drug program

Daytona Beach News Journal

Mary Moewe

They’re powerful psychotic drugs, used to treat conditions like schizophrenia. No one knows what their effects are on children, especially infants, yet within seven years the number of children prescribed the drugs in Florida’s health insurance program for the poor has nearly doubled.

There’s no doubting one side effect, though — drug companies watched sales soar, aided by a Florida program they helped create.

Florida is far from unique. Several states also noted the costly boom of atypical antipsychotics — a new class of the drug that was touted to have fewer side effects. The states are suing drug makers, alleging the companies pushed newer, untested drugs that proved no more effective in treatments — but were far more costly.

In Florida, the taxpayers’ bill for the drugs jumped from $9 million seven years ago to nearly $30 million in 2006. Whether Florida will join states like Texas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina in trying to recoup some of those costs is unclear.

“Our office is aware of concerns with antipsychotics in Florida’s Medicaid program but we cannot acknowledge nor provide any information pertaining to ongoing criminal investigations,” said Sandi Copes, a spokeswoman with the Florida Attorney General’s office.

Florida Medicaid records show the number of children — some just months old — who were prescribed the drugs went from 9,364 seven years ago to 18,137 in 2006. No records for privately insured patients are available…

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