MANATEE -- A grieving mother Tuesday told county commissioners how important it was to shut down bogus pain management clinics that peddle prescription drugs for profit.
Kim Lott of Bradenton rose to tell about the October death of her son, Sam, 23, who died homeless after a long struggle with addiction.
As the board reviewed a draft ordinance for stricter regulation of such clinics, Lott told them access to highly-addictive prescription pain medications like Oxycodone was “unbelievably easy,”
“I think there should be regulations, and I think there should be inspections monthly ... reports monthly,” Lott said. “If it’s an inconvenience to these doctors, then so be it. How many people are going to die every day because of these pills? This wasn’t like this 10 years ago.”
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“This is an epidemic,” she continued. “You know, my son is now a statistic; he’s also a statistic because his death was ruled by the medical examiner as a suicide. He felt he had nowhere to go; they ate him up. They choked the life out of him. He’s gone.”
The draft ordinance is expected to go before the board for a vote during a public hearing sometime next month, said Chief Deputy County Attorney Jim Minix.
“The intent of the ordinance is to prohibit ‘pill mills,’ No. 1,’” said Minix.
Officials explained that “pill mill” operations prescribe or dispense controlled substances inappropriately, unlawfully or for nonmedical reasons, while legitimate pain management clinics provide genuine medical care to their patients.
“It’s our belief that, when it comes down to it, most doctors who don’t get involved in pain management will not even be covered by the ordinance, so they shouldn’t have a problem with the ordinance,” Minix said.
The draft law defines a pain management clinic generally as one that provides more than 25 prescriptions per day of controlled substances for pain. Every such clinic in the county would need a permit to operate, beginning 30 days after the ordinance is adopted, officials said.
A section dealing with whether women would be required to take pregnancy tests before getting opiad-based drugs -- which can damage a fetus and cause addiction in newborns -- generated plenty of discussion.
Fred Leonard, executive director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee County, Inc., said he especially supported such testing in women of child-bearing age.
Noting that officials were considering allowing women to refuse such a test, and instead sign a waiver, he said,
“It may protect the physicians, in terms of their liability, but the fetus would still be at risk.”
“I would hope that the ordinance would take the steps to protect the fetus,” he added, suggesting the option to refuse be removed.
The draft ordinance also called for ownership restrictions, including training requirements for physicians; tracking of patient histories through the state’s prescription drug monitoring system; and limited hours of operation, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, except when surgery is taking place.
Toward the end of the session, Commissioner Joe McClash said even medical doctors who run legitimate practices may be part of the problem.
“It’s just been my observation over the years ... (that) most of the people I know that got hooked on Oxy were prescribed Oxy by regular doctors,” he said.
“And while this is a step in the right direction, I still wonder why we’re dealing with Oxy. Why can’t we just ban this stupid drug?”
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.