As a result of weak oversight and lax regulation, Florida has become a haven for the illicit prescription drug trade over the past few years.
Pill mills in the state have seen up to 80 patients a day, prescribing them drugs such as oxycodone, a painkiller otherwise known as “hillbilly heroin.” Dealers who buy the drugs for $5 in Florida have been known to sell them elsewhere for as much as $30. The epidemic is estimated to kill seven Floridians every day, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that aims to clamp down on the prescription drug trade after much adieu. Scott originally opposed the law because of a provision that would establish a prescription drug-monitoring database that would be used to help stop the crisis.
Scott raised concerns about the privacy and effectiveness of such a database. Thankfully, he changed his mind.
The law is a huge step in the fight against the trade and will be welcomed by both law enforcement and citizens alike. Sen. Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) praised the governor’s shift in stance on the database.
“The governor has made a huge turnaround … The governor today signed a bill that not only preserves the prescription drug-monitoring database, it makes it better,” he said to the Times.
Beside the database, the bill has some other important measures. It creates new penalties for doctors who overprescribe pills, strengthens reporting requirements, bans most doctors from selling pain drugs out of their offices, requires most prescriptions to be filled at pharmacies and gives $3 million to law agencies.
At a bill signing ceremony in Tampa, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said 30 percent of suspects booked in the county jail each day suffer from opiate withdrawal, illustrating the seriousness of the crisis.
In the first half of 2010, Florida doctors prescribed nine times as much oxycodone as the rest of the nation combined, according to the Miami Herald. Many who purchased the pills returned to their home states to sell them there, fueling the epidemic elsewhere.
Florida should not be known as the nation’s drug supplier. This bill will go a long way in the fight against this destructive trade, and it will help realize a vision in which Florida is not a destination for drug-dealing criminals. Gov. Scott was right to sign this needed legislation.