Oxycodone Crackdown in Florida

New laws and tougher legislation are aimed at changing the Sunshine State’s reputation as the “Oxy Express” and closing down the dangerous pill mills.

The days of the Florida pill mills may soon be coming to an end. In the past, thousands flocked to the state’s more than 1,000 pain clinics to obtain prescription drugs – often illegally – resulting in 89 percent of all the oxycodone sold to practictioners in the US in 2010 being bought by Florida doctors.

Officials are now using tougher laws to change that. In the past year, more than 400 clinics were either shut down or closed their doors, and prosecutors indicted dozens of pill mill operators, suspending the licenses of nearly 80 doctors for prescribing mass quantities of pills without clear medical need.

New laws are also cutting off distribution. As of July, Florida doctors are barred, with a few exceptions, from dispensing narcotics and addictive medicines in their offices or clinics. As a result, doctors’ purchases of oxycodone, which reached 32.2 million doses in the first six months of 2010, fell by 97 percent in the in the first half of 2011.

As doctors face tough new restrictions, law enforcement agencies are turning their attention to pharmacies. The number of applications to open new pharmacies in Florida has nearly doubled in the past two years, accounting for up to half of all the requests in the entire country, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Violators, whether they are pharmacists, doctors or clinic owners, face stiffer, swifter penalties if they prescribe or distribute legal narcotic drugs to people who do not need them or without following required steps. In one case, a Florida doctor who worked at one of the pain clinics was even charged with murder when a patient died of an overdose in 2009 a few hours after the doctor prescribed him 210 pain pills. And this wasn’t an isolated case. Prosecutors say the clinics in question were responsible for 56 overdose deaths.

Charging a doctor and a clinic owner with homicide “was a game changer,” said Sheriff Ric L. Bradshaw of Palm Beach County. “You are not going to get a slap on the wrist. You are looking at life in prison.”

Oxycodone Crackdown in Florida

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