New Law Is Delaying Regulation of Pill Mills; Because They Overrode a Crist Veto, Lawmakers Now Have to OK the Rules

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The fight against pill mills and prescription drug abuse in Florida has hit another snag as a new state law will inadvertently hold up administrative rules meant to regulate pain clinics.

The law requires legislative approval of any state agency rules that could have at least a $1 million impact over five years. It went into effect last week when the Legislature overrode Gov. Charlie Crist's veto of the bill.

The new law was intended to slow down government regulations but, in an unintended consequence, it will delay the Florida Department of Health's rules governing pain clinics, which were to go into effect Sunday. The Legislature will now have to approve the rules, and that likely won't happen until the next session in March.

Department of Health spokeswoman Eulinda Smith said the Board of Medicine expects to present a "statement of regulatory costs" to the Legislature 30 days before its next session. The delay has further frustrated advocates of more stringent rules on pain clinics, especially since it comes on the heels of a delay to the planned prescription drug monitoring database.

A sponsor of the early legislation aimed at reforming the pain management industry in Florida said the holdup in the rules doesn't have to be significant, though.

Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey, voted for the new law and said it has a built-in plan to allow agencies to make emergency rules, pending a legislative review later.

"It's being overlooked quite a bit, but the Board of Medicine still has to act on it," Legg said. "But if anyone knows the critical issues these pill mills are causing in our state, it's the people at the Board of Medicine, and I'm confident they'll make the right decisions."

Warren Pearson, executive director of the Florida Society of Pain Management Providers, said the delay in the rules is more than just a minor inconvenience. but it's the fact that reforms remain a moving target that is so disconcerting.

"It's certainly not a good thing the rules were put on hold, but it's not a fatal blow or flaw," Pearson said. …