Pill mills have been in the news a lot recently. These “legitimate” pharmacies make headlines for being distribution points for prescription drugs. They call themselves pharmacies and pain clinics, but in reality they are little more than ways for drug dealers to register their businesses.
The Tampa Bay Area, which of course includes Pinellas County, is currently considered the prescription drug capital of the U.S. This undesirable label is largely due to the large number of legal, yet realistically illegitimate, pharmacies that have popped up all over the area. These clinics give incredible amounts of prescription drugs to “patients” via a legal prescription. We do not want to get in the way of medical treatment, but take an example into consideration. A single Pinellas County doctor prescribed an estimated 94,000 individual pills to five individual “patients” over a two-year period. Do the math and each one of those “patients” took almost twenty-six pills a day, every day, for two years. Either these are in excruciating pain, or this physician was supplying street-level drug dealers. Which explanation do you think more accurately depicts the truth?
These facilities operate due to lax regulations and loopholes in the regulations that do exist. Well up until recently that is. Senate Bill 2272 is finally in place and being enforced better. The bill is directly aimed at controlling “pain” clinics and other establishments that dispense narcotics to patients. Now every clinic that prescribes narcotics must be owned and operated by a doctor who actually works out of the clinic. Can you believe that this wasn’t on the books before? In an example much like the one provided above, one “business man” owned six pain clinics and had only one doctor on staff–yet somehow all six clinics prescribed drugs on a daily basis. With the new regulations, the problem will be cleaned up a little bit. Unfortunately some doctors will remain willing to bend the law. It’s still possible that individual doctors will open multiple clinics and use their licenses to keep on overprescribing pills.
We do want to applaud the enforcement efforts that are in place. In mid-September a cooperative effort among multiple law enforcement entities in the Tampa Bay Area resulted in the arrest of over 100 people for charges mostly relevant to selling prescription drugs. While the raids did not seem to target clinics specifically, we fully support any and all efforts to stop people who are selling prescription drugs. Let’s face it: many of the people who were arrested likely obtained some of the medications they sold from pill mills. This is not the first time that law enforcement agencies have cracked down on the prescription drug trade, and we’re confident that these efforts will continue—and benefit our community immensely.
As a final note we would like to make sure that we are being clear. Some people experience great pain due to legitimate medical conditions. We are not opposed to doctors prescribing necessary medication to patients with medical cause. We also want to be clear that the vast majority of doctors make decisions based upon their medical knowledge, their patient’s needs and the Hippocratic Oath. The problem rests with the relatively small number of rogue doctors who are willing to prescribe relatively immense amounts of medications for profit. These rogue doctors are the ones who are contributing directly to the drug problem in our community, and we should focus our efforts on removing them from our community.