Pill-mill crackdown cut Florida’s overdose deaths

July 2, 2014

A federal report credits Florida’s crackdown on pill mills and doctor shoppers with reducing deaths from prescription-drug overdoses by nearly one quarter.

 

A federal report credits Florida’s crackdown on pill mills and doctor shoppers with reducing deaths from prescription-drug overdoses by nearly one quarter.

The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documents a 23% reduction in prescription drug deaths in Florida from 2010 to 2012. The report suggests that other states should follow Florida’s lead.

In recent years, Florida has become known as the pill mill capital of the United States. According to the CDC, between 2003 and 2009, drug overdose deaths in Florida increased 61.0%, from 1,804 to 2,905. Many were attributed to the pain killer oxycodone.

In response to the pill mills and the overdose deaths, Florida passed various laws and concentrated law enforcement efforts to shutter bogus medical clinics.

The result? Drug overdose deaths between 2010 and 2012 decreased 16.7%, from 3,201 to 2,666. Additionally, deaths per 100,000 persons decreased 17.7%, from 17.0 to 14.0. Overall, death rates for prescription drugs decreased 23.2%, from 14.5 to 11.1 per 100,000 persons.

 

“The decline in the overdose deaths from oxycodone (52.1%) exceeded the decline for other opioid pain relievers, and the decline in deaths for alprazolam (35.6%) exceeded the decline for other benzodiazepines,” the report stated. “Similar declines occurred in prescribing rates for these drugs during this period. The temporal association between the legislative and enforcement actions and the substantial declines in prescribing and overdose deaths, especially for drugs favored by pain clinics, suggests that the initiatives in Florida reduced prescription drug overdose fatalities.”

In 2011, Florida’s stepped up its crackdown on pill mills with increased raids throughout the state that resulted in arrests, seizures of assets, and the closures of many pain clinics, according to the CDC report.

State lawmakers in 2011 prohibited physician dispensing of schedule II or III drugs from their offices, mandated dispenser reporting to the newly established prescription drug-monitoring program. In 2012, Florida lawmakers expanded regulation of wholesale drug distributors and created the Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns.