Florida is waging war against its many pill mills, but the task is not proving to be easy. Doctors, pharmacies, and even politicians are standing in the way, in some people’s opinion, to regulating the prescription drug industry in the state.
Law enforcement made drastic moves this past week to shut down some notorious pill mills, by arresting not only drug users and dealers near the clinics, but by arresting doctors at the clinics as well. At least 5 well-known doctors were handcuffed and taken into custody, and at least that many more surrendered their narcotics prescribing licenses.
Pill Mill Practices
These doctors were from typical pill mills – small clinics that do a lot of business. Patients are not even always examined at these clinics, but anyone who brings cash in with them can expect to leave with the prescription pills they want. In fact, Florida is known in the prescription drug industry for their pill mills, and people from all over the country come to Florida to buy their pills. The statistics are revealing:
Doctors operating in Broward County dispensed more than 16 million prescription painkillers in 2009 among a population of 1.8 million, DEA records show.
For the drug, oxycodone, Florida practitioners purchased 41.2 million pills, compared with the total of 4.8 million purchased by practitioners in the other 49 states.
Of the top 25 oxycodone prescribers nationwide in 2008, 18 were in Broward County and three others were in neighboring Palm Beach County. (1)
Prescription Drug Database
One way many other states are curbing pill mills is by enforcing stricter monitoring of prescriptions, something the governor of Florida has rejected to some extent. Statewide prescription databases have been known to work in other states, to alert officials of patients that buy large amounts of pills from various pharmacies and different doctors.
Databases are now used in 35 states, and while many people see this kind of monitoring as a beneficial tool to stop prescription drug abuse, some people don’t agree. Florida’s Governor Rick Scott cites the cost of the program and the concern over patients’ rights and confidentiality as reasons why he will not allow the database to be set up in Florida.
The legislature in Florida, however, is reviewing stricter guidelines for doctors that prescribe narcotics. New rules would state that only a certain number of pills could be prescribed at once, and there would be stricter penalties for doctors that overprescribe or who fail to examine a patient before prescribing medication.
While Florida may be the state with the most blatant pill mills, it is not the only one. Other states have started cracking down on local clinics that are unethically dispensing prescription meds to known addicts. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing addiction in the United States. 7 million people in our county abuse prescription drugs, many of them getting the pills in some way from pill mills. Shutting down some of these clinics may have an influence on the prescription drug supply across the country.