Sunday, November 21, 2010
7 News Investigations: Pill Mills
It's a major drug problem exposed first on 7 News in South Florida. Now, it is getting more national attention. We're talking about South Florida pain clinics, the focus of legislators in Tallahassee now. Lawmakers had planned on cracking down at the end of this month on these clinics, but now a stall has reopened a gaping hole in the problem.
WSVN -- They come from Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia: the people for their pills.
Florida lawmakers say a cottage industry for so-called pain clinics, where narcotics like oxycodone and hydrocodone are handed out daily.
Dr. Bruce Gottlieb, Florida Department of Health Consultant: "It's a disgrace."
Dr. Bruce Gottlieb is just one of many doctors consulting the Florida Department of Health as it cracks down on pill mills.
Florida had planned to offer $100 an hour to any doctor willing to walk into pain clinics unannounced and spot what critics call "legalized drug dealing."
But now, a Tallahassee vote has stalled the implementation of the new crackdown until the spring of 2011.
Dr. Bruce Gottlieb: "One of the major problems that is facing any kind of control on this plague on Florida is that you're having a tremendous amount of money being made, and it's cash."
Broward County is the number one dispensing site for oxycodone in the country. In just the first six months of 2010, more than 3.3 million pills were distributed.
Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties are second and third in the nation.
7 News first exposed the problem, catching disturbing behavior outside pain clinics: people crushing pills, mixing them with water and then shooting them up with a needle. This woman snorted the crushed pills. All in South Florida pain clinic parking lots.
Next year, Florida will join 43 other states to help stem the selling and consumption of pain pills.
Prescription drug databases allow regulators to see who is prescribing a lot of pills and who is obtaining a lot of pills.
Paul Sloan, who owns a pain clinic, blasted the legislator for the delay. He says the bad pain clinics give his practice a bad name.
Paul Sloan, Pain Clinic Owner: "At my facilities, patients have proper documentation, medical records and are examined by a physician, and at a pill mill, generally little documentation, if any, and maybe not even examined by a physician."
He also supports Florida's tough, new regulations, which he displays in his office, intended to send pain pill shoppers elsewhere, like out of Florida. Period.
Reed Cowan: "The new rules for pain clinics have already been in the works with legislators for 14 months. There's also a second set of rules in the pipeline that would restrict pain clinic doctors to writing no more than 150 pain pill prescriptions per day."