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PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Bradenton City Council moves to put moratorium on ‘pill mills’

BRADENTON — City Council has asked its attorney to draft an ordinance that would put a moratorium on the opening of pain clinics in Bradenton.

During a workshop session Wednesday, Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey asked her fellow council members to support her request for the moratorium, presenting them with a stack of articles and graphs on the problems the clinics, sometimes called “pill mills,” are creating in other communities.

The 1910 Medical Clinic recently opened at 1910 Manatee Ave. W., which is in Barnebey’s ward.

“They appear to be medical clinics dealing with people in pain,” the councilwoman said, speaking of pain clinics in general.

“But to distinguish between legitimate clinics operating to help people in pain and other operations, just look at the license plates of the cars in their parking lots,” Barnebey said. “Many of them are from Tennessee or Kentucky or some other state.

“In a quick amount of time, they’re walking out with large amounts of narcotics.”

Councilman Bemis Smith questioned if the city can regulate medical operations.

“What legal basis do we have to override state medical oversight?” Smith said. “I don’t think the city has any legal right to do so.”

Barnebey visibly became emotional over Smith’s question and apparent resistance to a moratorium.

She said the action was meant to save children’s lives.

Holding up an article from the Bradenton Herald, Barnebey said a man on trial for DUI manslaughter, for driving his car into a 19-year-old motorcyclist, had numerous pills in his car and admitted taking pain medication before and after the crash.

The motorcyclist was Barnebey’s nephew, she said.

Smith said he agreed with everything the councilwoman was saying, but did not want to put the city in the position of being sued.

City Attorney Bill Lisch said the city may have a lawsuit filed against it, but there are several cities in Florida that have already passed ordinances restricting pain clinic operation.

“If there is a lawsuit, there will be many cities involved,” Lisch said.

He said the moratorium will give the city time to develop regulations on parking, and other code restrictions.

Pinellas County commissioners unanimously passed Tuesday a moratorium on the opening of new pain clinics.

Assistant County Attorney Jewel White-Cole said the moratorium will go into effect as soon as it is returned from the state for review and will last until Oct. 1 when state regulations take affect.

White-Cole said Pinellas commissioners also established a task force to provide them with suggested regulations, if more than what the state offers is needed.

The state Legislature passed a bill last week to crack down on unscrupulous pain clinic operators.

If Gov. Crist signs the legislation, it would increase regulations on the clinics, physicians who own or work at them, and provide criminal and financial penalties for violations of the new law.

The law would go into effect July 1, 2012, and would require physicians to be recognized as a specialist in pain by a licensing board, among other requirements.

Pain clinics have become a problem in Florida, especially in Broward County, attracting patients from other states where it is more difficult to get prescriptions for pain drugs, such as oxycodone.

According to the Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner’s office, more oxycodone is distributed in Florida than in any other state.

A press release indicated the nation’s top 25 pain clinics for dispensing the most prescription pain drugs are in Florida, and the 50 doctors who dispense the most oxycodone in the country are in Florida, with 33 in Broward County.

“A major factor contributing to these alarming statistics are Florida’s ‘dispensing practitioners’ who have special approval to dispense drugs directly from their offices,” according to the press release. “In 2006, they handed out 85 percent of all oxycodone distributed by doctors nationally.”

Councilman Harold Byrd said he sees the proposed moratorium as being proactive.

“While we don’t have the right to regulate medical procedures,” Byrd said, “we do have a duty to protect the public’s safety.”

Lisch said he will have a draft ordinance ready for the council at its meeting 8:30 a.m. May 12.

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