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PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Bradenton pain clinic draws protesters

BRADENTON — Nearly a dozen protesters held up signs calling for the closing of a pain clinic at 1910 Manatee Ave. W., during rush hour traffic Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s just a concern for our community. It’s unsafe for our environment,” said Ruth Lyerly, a Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition board member, who lives near by the 1910 Medical Clinic.

Lyerly, whose 18-year-old son was under the influence of cocaine and marijuana when he took his own life several years ago, said she worries about pills doled out to adults ending up in the hands of children.

Inside the clinic, about 10 people waited to see a doctor for pain medication. Some of them limped from room to room. John Lanning, a Tampa-based dispensing practitioner according to Florida Department of Health records and one of the doctors at the clinic, sat writing prescriptions at his desk.

The clinic requires a MRI scan for each patient to view a serious injury before giving out a prescription for drugs such as Oxycodone. In recent years, law enforcement has seen a surge in the number of users who have abused the drug as well as crimes including robberies.

When asked if the clinic posed a risk to the neighborhood, Lanning responded, “There’s no reason to feel unsafe. These people are getting the narcotics they need. They don’t have to rob anyone for it.”

Lanning said the clinic opened its doors in March and that drugs are not kept on site.

“For the pain, we prescribe narcotics. These are patients who are not responding to medication their doctors are giving them,” Lanning said. “These patients are dependent upon narcotics so they can function. Most of them have jobs, support families and have children. These are people most of whom have been involved in auto accidents or have damaged their bodies working. Most of them do not have insurance. Most of them don’t have $20,000 in the bank to have surgery.”

Last week, Florida lawmakers approved strict new rules for pain clinics, limiting the number of pills sold to patients paying cash, curbing advertising and imposing tougher standards for doctors and clinic owners. South Florida is regarded as the prime source of illegal prescription drugs in the eastern United States with 1,000 clinics open statewide.

If Gov. Charlie Crist signs the bill, clinics like 1910 — which require cash-only payments — would not be able to dispense more than a 72-hour supply of narcotics to patients who pay by cash without insurance. If passed, the law would take effect Oct. 1.

The drugs Lanning prescribes are often stronger and sometimes given in higher frequency than other doctors prescribe, he said. He writes prescriptions for a month.

Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said the department has received two minor calls involving the clinic. He said he plans to check with other communities to see how clinics have affected crime and health.

Material from the Miami Herald was used in this report.