TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Storefronts in just two counties, Palm Beach and Broward, prescribed nine million pills in one six month period last year, prompting Attorney General Pam Bondi to create a four point plan to shut them down. “Our state has become the destination for distributors and abusers, and we have got to stop it."
Bondi brought together law enforcement and prosecutors Thursday to urge cooperation.
On the panel is Karen Perry a Palm Beach mother whose college-age son overdosed on otherwise legal pain killers. “A parent never gets over the loss of a child. You just don’t.”
A database designed to keep track of who is prescribing what has been mired in a lack of funding and a contract dispute.
Prosecutors are also being hampered by a delay in implementing a new Board of Medicine. Those rules would make it easier to shut down those who over prescribe. A new law says lawmakers must review the rules first.
Special Counsel Dave Aronberg says the lax rules have created what he calls drug tourism. “There are more pain clinics in Broward County then there are McDonald’s in Broward County. Same thing in Palm Beach County. It shows you the extent of this problem.”
There are 1167 licensed pain clinics in Florida, with many of them apparently dispensing more pain than pain relief.
An average of seven people per day die in Florida from overdosing on otherwise legal drugs. Police says 38 active investigations are underway. The new rules, as well as new legislation, are expected to be approved by May.
Bondi's legislative proposals include a mandatory six-month suspension and $10,000 fine for doctors who violate standards of care for pain clinics, which will are among the rules awaiting legislative approval.
She also wants a criminal penalty of up to five years in prison for those who use fraud or misrepresentation to register as a pain clinic and a maximum of 60 days in jail for doctors who fail to examine patients before dispensing 72-hours worth of drugs, and five years for a second offense.
Bondi's initiative also calls for more aggressive administrative enforcement and criminal prosecutions under existing laws and long-term prevention efforts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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