Pubdate: Sat, 29 Oct 2011 Source: Florida Today (Melbourne, FL) Copyright: 2011 Florida Today Contact: http://www.floridatoday.com/content/forms/services/letters.shtml Website: http://www.floridatoday.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/532 BATTLING PILL MILLS New Law Helps Police Tackle State's Prescription Drug Epidemic State lawmakers and law enforcement officials are working to change Florida's reputation as the nation's pill-mill capital for addictive painkillers like oxycodone. Pain-management clinics are the main reason for the prescription drug epidemic that kills roughly seven Floridians a day. Although the problem has been rampant in South Florida in recent years, last Tuesday's arrest of an Indialantic doctor, suspected of being one of the state's most prolific distributors of oxycodone, shows the Space Coast has not escaped the scourge of pill mills. But now, as a result of a law passed earlier this year by the state Legislature, law enforcement officials and the state have the tools needed to crack down more aggressively on pill mills. One facet of the law, which took effect in July, bars Florida doctors from dispensing narcotics and addictive medicines at most offices or clinics. The measure also created a prescription drug-monitoring system, launched this month, that allows physicians and pharmacists to access the prescription drug history of patients in Florida. The database is a much-needed resource that will enable pharmacists to pull up information on how often a patient is prescribed and sold these drugs. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, was a staunch advocate of the drug-monitoring database, which initially was opposed by House leaders and Gov. Rick Scott. The governor called it a waste of money and invasion of privacy. But Bondi and several GOP legislators, including Haridopolos, pushed for it, and the governor eventually agreed. A group of local law enforcement agencies agreed to pay for the database out of their forfeiture funds. Brevard Sheriff Jack Parker also was a strong proponent of the database, which has been used in many other states. In a guest column published in March, he urged the governor to support the idea. "We need to do everything we can to change his mind. Too many lives depend on it," Parker wrote. According to the sheriff, during the past five years, nearly 800 people in Brevard have died as a result of prescription drugs, far more than the number of deaths caused by illegal drugs. Across Florida, prosecutors have indicted dozens of pill-mill operators, and nearly 80 doctors have seen their licenses suspended for prescribing mass quantities of pills without clear medical need, according to a recent New York Times article. At the local level, Parker strongly supports law enforcement-coordinated events in which unwanted prescription drugs are collected. He maintains that removing these pills from homes can prevent them being stolen by a family member, visitor or worker in the house. It also prevents a young child from accidentally ingesting a drug. The Brevard Sheriff's Office and local police departments set up several drop-off sites in the county in May. In August, the state conducted its second annual Prescription Drug Take-Back Day across Florida. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi maintains the program draws attention to her war against pill mills. The Statewide Drug Enforcement Task Force, which Bondi organized, reports that progress is being made in the pill-mill fight. The state law is a critical component in making that battle successful. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.