Florida’s ‘pill mill’ problem grew out of years of weak regulations, a lack of laws and the absence of a database to monitor prescription drugs, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel.
“We failed to enact proper controls and procedures that would keep this from getting out of hand,” Bruce Grant, the state’s former Director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, told the newspaper.
As a result, Florida has become the center of the country’s prescription drug epidemic, the article states, noting that 90 of the top 100 oxycodone-buying doctors in the country in 2010 were from the state.
There has been no tracking at the state or federal level of what types or how many prescription drugs are prescribed by Florida physicians. Earlier this month, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill designed to cut down on prescription drug abuse by controlling pill mills in the state. The law authorizes the creation of a prescription-drug monitoring database to reduce doctor-shopping by people looking to collect multiple painkiller prescriptions. The legislation also imposes new penalties for physicians who overprescribe medication and imposes stricter rules for operating pharmacies. The system is expected to be working this fall, the article notes.
Governor Scott had long opposed the creation of a prescription drug-monitoring database. He said he was concerned about cost and patient privacy. In part to allay privacy concerns, the law requires that administrators of the database undergo FBI background checks. Law enforcement can only use the database as part of an active investigation.
Even when physicians are charged with illegally prescribing drugs or are linked to drug overdoses, their licenses are not automatically suspended or revoked by Florida’s Department of Health, the newspaper states. In addition, not all physicians running pill mills are registered as pain-management clinics. This means that new regulations that target pill mills don’t affect them.