Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Pill Mill Law
With people dying everyday in Florida from prescription drug abuse, experts say we're facing an epidemic. A Seven News investigation first exposed the problem of these pill mills, and now our report is being used as an example of why Florida needs to shut them down. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the Case.
WSVN -- It was a Friday afternoon, but there was no TGIF celebration for these guys.
The three men from Kentucky were busted by Broward Sheriff's deputies who discovered bottle after bottle of prescription pills in their vehicle.
Mike Jachles, BSO: "They say they're here from Kentucky, and they were here visiting family."
But authorities think they were really here to visit our pain clinics. All three were charged with trafficking oxycodone.
It's not illegal for pain clinics to hand out prescriptions and pills, but it is illegal for a person to go from place to place getting pills.
As we first showed you in November, South Florida leads the nation in dispensing oxycodone from a large number of pain clinics that are also known as pill mills. We exposed the new tourists the clinics are attracting: People from Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.
They sleep in their cars. They hide pills in their pants. They carry clean urine samples just in case they're tested. They snort crushed up pain pills in plain view, and they shoot up in the parking lots of pain clinics.
BSO Sergeant Lisa McElhaney: "Literally, hundreds of thousands of people are coming to South Florida."
Our story was shown at a recent conference organized by the Florida Office of Drug Control. Even the director was taken aback by the extreme activity documented in our report.
Bill Janes, Director of the Florida Office of Drug Control: "I'm surprised, I'm very disappointed. I'm very concerned."
The conference included law enforcement experts and activists from the United Way to the Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse.
Dr. Sanford Silverman is on the United Way's Commission. He says the pill mills are not about managing pain, they're about making money.
Dr. Sanford Silverman: "The pill mills are, you know, fronts for dollars. They know the more people they get in, the more people become physically dependent on the drug, and they have to come back every month."
Part of the problem, Florida has no program to keep track of who is writing, who is filling and who is using these powerful narcotic pain pills. Thirty-eight other states monitor pill sales, but because we don't, experts say, people from those states come here to get what they can't get at home.
Bill Janes: "This is drug trafficking. So there must be a criminal sanction. This is a crime."
The point of the conference was to come up with a drug monitoring program for lawmakers to pass. Supporters believe a law that holds doctors, pharmacists and patients accountable will cut down on the pill tourists.
Carmel Cafiero: "Another aspect of all this, the misery addiction causes. I heard from one mother who said she had to have her son arrested in order to save him because he was going from one pain clinic to another and getting pills at all of them."
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