Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a landmark bill last week that is aimed at cracking down on the so-called pill mills that have been freely dispensing addictive prescription drugs in his state. Law enforcement officials and residents of southern states hope that the new law will put an end to the OxyExpress, a nickname given to Florida’s Interstate 75. Drug dealers have been using highway to transport narcotic prescription drugs like OxyContin throughout the state of Florida and north to neighboring states.
The Governor has been under intense pressure to do something about pill mills – the name given to pain clinics that have popped up all over the state and have made it easy for drug abusers and drug dealers to obtain powerful prescription narcotics. Florida has become ground zero for the nation’s prescription drug epidemic, with seven people dying each day from prescription drug abuse.
The most-abused prescription drug in the nation is OxyContin (the brand name for oxycodone), a time-released medication that was designed to provide long-lasting relief for people who suffer from chronic pain. Abusers crush OxyContin tablets and then snort or inject the drug, bypassing the time-release mechanism in order to experience an intense high that has been compared to heroin.
Soon after the bill was signed, federal authorities executed a search warrant on the offices of a doctor who had prescribed OxyContin more than 300,000 times in the past year, exceeding the total number of prescriptions written for the drug in the entire state of California.
Governor Scott originally opposed the portion of the new law that will provide for a statewide database that will track prescriptions. State Attorney General Pam Bondi was finally able to convince him that the database is the only way to stop drug addicts from obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors. According to Bondi, “Not a day goes by that I don’t hear a story of someone who has lost a family member or friend to prescription drug abuse.”
The new law includes the following provisions:
• Tougher criminal penalties for doctors who overprescribe drugs.
• Support for a statewide prescription monitoring database.
• Tighter regulation of prescription writing and pain management.
• Requirements that clinics must track patients who receive dangerous prescription drugs and watch for signs of addiction.
• More tracking for wholesale distribution of controlled substances.
• An additional $3 million for law enforcement agencies to support the new law.
Florida’s new law comes on the heels of an announcement last month that the federal government aims to cut the abuse of oxycodone and similar opioids by 15% over the next 5 years through education, law enforcement and prescription monitoring databases at the state level.