PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - After a surge in the number of pain management clinics trying to set up shop as pharmacies, Florida's drug czar is warning about loopholes in the laws targeting pill mills. Experts say the only remedy is a new crackdown.
Pain clinics are big business, but also a big problem, and the loopholes in the laws concerning them are wide enough for many to continue operating and making money.
Medical experts say prescription medicines are the new gateway drugs - the starting point for spiraling addictions. Oxycodone and Xanax are high on that list.
Dr. Barbara Krantz works with with the Hanley Center and treats prescription drug addicts. She says in the past two years, there's been a significant increase in the number of addicts.
"We're seeing anywhere from approximately eight deaths per day," said Krantz. "This is a public health crisis."
Dr. Krantz says Florida is still considered the center for prescription drug trafficking.
A new law bans drugs from being dispensed by pain clinics, but Florida's drug czar and former state Senator Dave Aronberg says clinics are looking for ways to skirt that law.
"To get around that, they start their own pharmacy," said Aronberg.
According to a report by the Sun-Sentinel, in the last year the state approved 800 new pharmacies - a sharp rise over previous years.
"They actually put a pharmacy inside their own pain clinics so now you still have one-stop shopping," said Aronberg.
Dr. Krantz says the law must adapt to keep drugs out of the hands of pain clinics which, she argues, should not have them.
"They are legal drug dealers," she said.
Aronberg says the state is moving to close the loophole. By next July, he says all pharmacies will face new and tougher permitting regulations.
"There's no reason for a pharmacy to be relocated inside a pain clinic. We have to be smarter than these guys. Every time we close a loophole, another one opens," said Aronberg.
Aronberg says he is also expecting pain clinics to be banned from being near pharmacies in the future.
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