State Politics

AG moves to crack down on pill mills

TALLAHASSEE -- Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Thursday a multi-pronged strategy to address so-called pill mills.

“We are the epicenter for the country in prescription drug abuse,” she said at an hour-long news conference. “Cracking down on pill mills is one of our top priorities.”

Key provisions of Bondi’s legislative proposal include:

n Mandatory six-month suspension and $10,000 fine for doctors who violate standards of care when prescribing controlled substances.

n A third-degree felony conviction for anyone who fraudulently registers as a pain clinic.

n Criminal penalties for doctors who fail to perform a physical examination before dispensing 72 hours’ worth of controlled substances.

n Fines for keepers of controlled substances who fail to report thefts to law enforcement within 48 hours.

Florida lawmakers have already passed laws to combat the problem, but implementation of some have been stalled.

Plans for a prescription drug database are on hold while vendors competing to run the program argue over the contract. And rules that, among other things, would set caps on how many prescriptions a physician can write each day and require doctors to perform adequate physical exams before writing the prescriptions are awaiting approval from the legislature.

Those rules were in the works but a law passed in a special session in November stopped them until they could undergo an economic impact study and get approval from the Legislature. Bondi said she hopes lawmakers will make approval of the rules as one of the first actions they take when the legislative session begins in March.

At the request of Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Board of Medicine also handed the rules over to his office for review. They were among 900 rules submitted for perusal by the governor under an executive order. He has released about two dozen. The pill mill rules are among them, Bondi said. “We thank the governor for his support in this very serious matter,” she said.

Bondi, though, said her multi-pronged approach will involve more than just legislation. She also wants more administrative oversight of pain clinics and doctors; increased criminal prosecution; and prevention.

She was joined at the news conference with state and federal law enforcement officials, the vice chairman of the state Board of Medicine, and attorney and former south Florida Sen. Dave Aronberg, whom Bondi hired to serve as Florida’s drug czar.

South Florida has been particularly hard hit, with 9 million Oxycodone tablets prescribed in Broward and Palm Beach counties in the first six months of 2010, she said.