More Ammunition Arrives for Fight ‘Pill Mills’

The state of Florida may be receiving some more aid in its battle against pill mills and their effect on the community.

Pain clinics, or “pill-mills” as they are often called, are not your average pharmacy.

Although these are pain-management clinics allow customers to book appointments and receive prescription drugs, the way they do business has become a problem, according to state officials.

Many pill-mills overbook their appointments, which subjects many to several hours of waiting for medical attention.

In addition, state officials charge that they usually over-prescribe medication to patients and most of the time these pain-killing prescriptions are also controlled substances.

While some people may not see an issue with this practice, pharmacist Dr. Christopher Ezigwe said that giving more medicine than necessary can lead to bigger problems.

“People are prescribed a certain amount of medicine for a reason. When a patient receives too many pills they can become drug dependent or addicted, especially when it is a controlled substance,” Ezigwe said.

When people get what Ezigwe called “phony” prescriptions, they are not helping themselves, but they are making themselves worse, according to Ezigwe.

These pill-mills are becoming more prevalent in Florida; they seem to be more of a problem in the central and southern regions of the state, rather than North Florida.

People are reportedly coming from other states just to receive prescription drugs from a system that appears questionable.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has seen the effects pill-mills have had on the state and she has proposed some solutions. Earlier this month, Bondi released her comprehensive strategy to confront pill-mills in Florida.

Bondi’s legislative proposal is her way of giving more support to the cause. She said all of Florida needs to help eliminate the problem.

“Our state needs a unified effort at every level to eradicate Florida’s pill-mills. We are working with state and local law enforcement, as well as our federal partners, to curtail the dangerous dispensing and abuse of prescription drugs.”

The Pill Mill Eradication Act includes provisions that make the distribution of prescriptions tougher.

Many of the provisions are aimed at all pharmacies, but there is one provision that targets pain-management clinics directly.

The Misrepresentation and Fraudulent Registration Provision “creates a criminal penalty for any person that attempts to register or registers a pain-management clinic through misrepresentation or fraud.”

Even though legislation has already been passed, Florida is still one of a few states that does not have a database for tracking prescription drugs. With a tracking database, law enforcement could find out where people are getting their prescription drugs and they could also track who are buying the drugs.

People can come from anywhere to purchase drugs in Florida and take them wherever they want and there would be no way to find track them. The lack of a tracking system makes the resale of drugs a lot easier, Bondi said.

Based on a recent report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were more deaths from legal medication in the first half of 2010 than the first half of 2009, an increase from around 1,157 people to nearly 1,270.

According to Gov. Rick Scott, seven people die from overdosing on prescription drugs daily in Florida.

Statistics like this one has many people backing Bondi in her efforts.

Former state senator Dave Aronberg said this decision to crack down on pill-mills is necessary. “I commend the Attorney General for making this her top priority. No longer will Florida serve as the pill-mill for the rest of the country,” Aronberg said at the unveiling of the new provisions. While the strategy that Bondi has introduced is not in effect, it will be presented in the legislative sessions in coming months.