AG Has Her Sights Set to Kill 'Pill Mills'; New Initiatives Would Go after Physicians Involved in Pain Clinic Prescriptions

By Larrabee, Brandon | The Florida Times Union, February 4, 2011 | Go to article overview
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AG Has Her Sights Set to Kill 'Pill Mills'; New Initiatives Would Go after Physicians Involved in Pain Clinic Prescriptions


Larrabee, Brandon, The Florida Times Union


Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

TALLAHASSEE - Attorney General Pam Bondi, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors announced a slate of initiatives Thursday aimed at cracking down on "pill mills," clinics that overprescribe pain killers and are blamed for helping fuel a growing nationwide epidemic.

But a spending-watchdog law passed by the Legislature over the veto of former Gov. Charlie Crist is keeping some of the new rules, by the state Board of Medicine and aimed at reining in the clinics, from being implemented until after the Legislature convenes next month.

State proposals would criminalize some practices associated with pill mills and toughen sanctions on physicians who break medical guidelines.

In addition, Bondi said state prosecutors would work more closely in trying to shut down pill mills around the state.

Those involved in the new push against the clinics say the problem is part of a growing drug epidemic. Oxycodone, a powerful pain killer, caused almost 1,200 deaths in Florida in 2009, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and killed 715 more Floridians in the first half of 2010.

And Florida's problem with the pill mills stretches beyond its borders, with "drug tourists" looking for easy access to the drugs.

"A lot of these people come from out of the state of Florida, and they're coming specifically to go to the different pill mills in Florida, whether it be stopping off in Jacksonville or going further south to Broward County," said Lori Hall, a detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Hall and other law enforcement officers said they expect the new proposals to help crack down on the problem.

"I've been doing this 15 years," Hall said. "This is the most exciting part I've ever been involved in."

Among the changes to the law proposed by Bondi and supporters:

- Hitting physicians who violate state rules on standard of care with a six-month suspension and a $10,000 fine.

- New criminal penalties for physicians who prescribe 72 hours or more worth of controlled substances or for anyone who fraudulently registers a pain-management clinic.

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