by Amy Keller
Updated 11 months ago
• PILL MILLS
Snapshots from the prescription drug war
• Prescription drug deaths climbed to 2,488 in 2009 — a rate of seven deaths per day — making prescription drug abuse the No. 1 killer of middle-aged Floridians. In Broward County alone, 415 people died with prescription opiates (including oxycodone, hydrocdone, methadone and morphine) in their systems.
• American Pain in Lake Worth saw 250 patients a day, paid doctors $44,000 a week and administered more than 2 million oxycodone pills, according to federal court documents. The clinic's five doctors ranked among the top 20 purchasers of oxycodone, according to the DEA.
• Between August 2008 and November 2009, a new pain clinic opened in Broward and Palm Beach counties on average every three days, according to a Broward County grand jury.
• In 2009, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office made 243 drug diversion arrests — involving prescription drugs diverted for recreational use — compared to 83 in 2008. In Pinellas, 179 people overdosed on prescription drugs in 2009. In neighboring Hillsborough County, commissioners passed an emergency ordinance last May to regulate the county's pain management clinics.
• According to a July 2010 report by the United Way of Broward County's Commission on Substance Abuse, rates of oxycodone-related visits to the emergency departments in Broward and Palm Beach counties by people in their 20s is double the national rate.
• The Legislature passed SB 2272, which requires pain clinics to register with the state and makes them subject to annual inspections. It also prohibits physicians from advertising prescriptions for controlled substances and limits the amount of prescription drugs people can purchase from a pain management clinic if they are not covered by insurance. Lawmakers may have to approve the new regulations a second time, however: Last fall, the GOP-led Legislature overrode former Gov. Charlie Crist's veto of a bill that requires legislative approval of any new regulation that creates compliance costs of more than $1 million over five years for the business community.