Friday, November 20, 2009
7 News Investigations: Grand jury puts Broward pill mills on notice
We were the first to expose South Florida's problem with so-called pill mills that offer easy access to prescription drugs to addicts who use them for purposes other than prescribed. Now, a grand jury has taken notice. 7's Charles Billi has the latest.
WSVN -- They say they're pain clinics. But the Broward State Attorney calls them something else: pill mills, a place where people addicted to pain killers and narcotics can get pills-- lots of them-- fraudulently.
A 7 News investigation was the first to break the story of prescription drugs being prescribed illegally en masse in Broward County. This is not happening at all pain clinics, but there are many crooked ones.
For months now, 7's investigative reporter Carmel Cafeiro has been asking pain clinic doctors the tough questions.
Carmel Cafeiro: "Are you certified in pain management? Are you concerned with the number of people that walk out of here with pills? Why do you think there are so many people coming from out-of-state to see you here?"
As a result of our 7 News investigation, a Broward grand jury issued an 18-point set of recommendations to crack down on these pill mills.
Of the 18, here are the four most potent:
1) Implement a drug monitoring program to track excessive dispensing of prescription drugs to patients who "doctor shop," aka, go to as many different doctors as possible to get prescriptions.
2) State medical boards must aggressively regulate pain clinics and their doctors.
3) Pain clinics can't dispense pills. This is the big one, as people will have to go to licensed pharmacies to get their medications.
4) Pain clinics must accept insurance. They can't be "cash-only" businesses.
Broward State Attorney Mike Satz: "The grand jury felt that they wanted to look at that and make sure that pill mills are not increasing, that the health and welfare of the people of South Florida, in particular the people of Broward County is enhanced, that they felt that this prescription drug monitoring program be placed into effect, be effective to stop doctor shopping, stop people coming from other states like Kentucky."
It's been a problem for awhile now. A pill pipeline was recently exposed between South Florida and Kentucky, where powerful drugs like Oxycodone are sold for cash or abused.
Some addicts can't even wait, immediately crushing, dissolving and injecting the drugs in their car, in the very parking lot of the place where they got them, all caught on 7 News cameras.
Paul Daly, former chairman of the United Way of Broward's Commission on Substance Abuse says the pill mill problem is so bad people are literally dying for the drugs.
Paul Daly: "And in the state of Florida alone, resulting in 2008 of over 3,000 deaths, and it was running at a rate of eight to nine a day."
The biggest recommendation is the prescription drug monitoring program, which would establish electronic databases to track doctor-shopping patients and alert officials when they try and obtain multiple prescriptions.