Just when Florida residents thought something was finally being done about the pill mill problem, another legislature takes office and efforts are halted. With all of the media coverage about prescription drug use and pill mills in Florida, it’s hard to sift through the anger and opinions to see what is really going on in Tallahassee to stop pain clinics from prescribing irresponsible amounts of pain medication.
One thing is for sure—the state of Florida has a problem with prescription drugs. At its worst point, pill mills were popping up everywhere in Florida, mostly in Broward County, advertising on-site dispensing and cash-only transactions.
According to Time magazine, in 2008 the nation’s top 25 oxycodone-dispensing doctors were all in Florida. Of those, 18 of them were in Broward County. Because of this, Florida has developed the reputation of being a one-stop shop for pain medication needs. Tourists now flock to Florida to feed their pain med addiction from states with stricter regulations.
That was until advocates for stronger regulations finally got their wish and new rules and restrictions were passed in September of last year.
“Pill Mill Bill” Restrictions and Regulations
- All privately owned clinics advertising pain-management services must register with the Department of Health (with some exceptions).
- All clinics must be fully owned by a physician or be a licensed "health care clinic."
- A doctor must examine a patient on the same day that he dispenses or prescribes pain medication and cannot dispense more than a 72-hour dose for patients paying by cash, check, or credit card (not insurance). When prescribing for longer periods, the doctor must note the reason in the patient’s records.
- The Department of Health will inspect clinics and review patient records annually.
- Clinics can get fined up to $5,000 per violation.
Some criticize the law for having loop holes, or not requiring pain clinics to actually enter patient prescriptions into a shared database. Regardless of flaws, according to a study done by the St. Petersburg Times, about three dozen pain clinics have had their licenses revoked or have closed since officials started enforcing the law that took effect in October.
So What Happened?
Last year, the Republican Legislature proposed a bill (House Bill 1565), which would require legislative approval of rules that are forecast to cost at least $1 million over a five-year period. Once the bill made it to the governor’s desk, Governor Charlie Christ vetoed it in fear of halting all new and positive government reform. Christ’s veto on House Bill 1565 was what kept the regulation flowing and the enforcement of pain clinic regulations to occur.
Then Governor Scott took office. His first order of business was to freeze all new rules and state contracts worth more than $1 million until his newly created Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform could review them. Scott’s vision of “getting government out of the way” and prohibiting imposing governmental regulations on the private sector ultimately halted the efforts to shut down the very pain clinics that help to feed the illegal pill pipeline.
"This state can’t afford the luxury of waiting for another layer of bureaucrats to sift through contracts already examined by other bureaucrats and given the green light to keep Florida moving," said Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich.
The Florida Board of Medicine Steps In
After further review of the laws that have been passed, revoked and halted, the Florida Board of Medicine took a deep look into the law books and decided to take matters into their own hands.
Despite the ban on rulemaking, they unanimously passed rules for medical doctors who work in pain clinics.
Although these regulations will impose an estimated $65 million in costs (which are almost entirely from a requirement for periodic urine screenings) on the private sector, the Florida Board of Medicine is encouraging their staff to send letters to the legislature urging immediate implementation due to the public threat pill mills have created in Florida.
Pain medication overdose kills seven Floridians a day and affects the lives of friends and loved ones everywhere. These highly addictive drugs are making their way not only into addicts’ hands, but into our children’s hands. According to pharmacist Larry Golbon, “The cost of leaving the pain-clinic industry unregulated is high in both dollars and emotional turmoil for the families of those who die.”
If you would like to find out more information on addiction, or keeping your children from experimenting with drugs, visit our website here: Pinellas Coalition or our weekly blog here: Livefree!
Broward/Palm Beach New Times
The Huffington Post
St. Petersburg Times
Palm Beach Post
The TBO Online
Community Resources for Drug Prevention and Addiction
A Drug-Free Home
Teenagers Abusing Prescription Medication