'Pill Mills' Withering under State Scrutiny

Article excerpt

For most of the last couple of years, Florida officials have been getting called on the carpet in Congress for the state's reputation as the "pill mill" capital of the nation.

But when Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was brought to Congress last week, she had something very different to share about the war on prescription drug abuse: good news.

Bondi said thanks to new tougher state regulations, the number of pain management clinics in Florida have dropped from 900 a year ago to 580 today.

"And I guarantee you that number is going to continue to plummet," Bondi, a Republican, told members of Congress at a hearing Thursday held by the subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

Before the new rules, Florida had notoriously weak regulations and poor oversight over prescription drug-dispensing businesses that draw drug abusers from around the nation to buy highly addictive medications such as oxycodone.

Bondi said the new law stops doctors from dispensing the most abused narcotics and makes them use counterfeit-proof prescription pads.

Combined with more aggressive police action, the new laws have made a dramatic change, she said.

In 2010, Florida had 98 of the top 100 oxycodone-dispensing doctors in the nation. But now, because of the tougher regulations, Florida has only 13 people on the list, she said.

Instead of complaining about Florida, other members of Congress are now pushing other states to follow Florida's example.

"If it works in your state, why wouldn't it work nationally?" U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., asked Bondi during the hearing.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, has been among those trying to pass tougher national laws on prescription drug abuse. Buchanan proposed a bill last year that would create tougher federal sentencing rules for pill mill operators and make it harder for people to get hydrocodone, one of the most abused pain medications.

Teary farewell for Bennett

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has built a tough-guy reputation over the 12 years he has been in the Florida Legislature.

He never thought twice about fighting environmentalists over his pro-development positions and laughed off criticism that he was trying to kill manatees when he suggested boat speed limits to protect them might not be needed.

But on Friday, the Vietnam veteran's hardened exterior was reduced to tears as he tried to say farewell to the Legislature he has worked in since 2000.

Because of term limits, Bennett is in his final session in Tallahassee.

Bennett, 67, repeatedly stopped himself during his farewell address to fight back tears, especially as he talked about his wife Dee's support. …

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