Believe it or not, six people a day die from prescription drug overdoses in Florida. That is three times the numbers who die from illegal drugs. The problem is centered in South Florida.
Pain management clinics have sprung up and are largely an unregulated cash-only operation that is very lucrative for the fly-by-night operators and very dangerous from the addicts who buy, not just for themselves, but for the users they supply in the south, specifically Kentucky.
Popular medications include OxyContin, a pain medicine, and RoxyContin, similar to morphine and can be injected like heroin. Many pain management clinics are run by convicted felons or those with a history of drug-related crimes. Estimates reflect that there are about 900 pain clinics throughout Florida.
The legislature is trying to tackle pain clinics this session. Proposed bills will toughen pain clinic laws requiring clinics to register with the Department of Health and to participate in a state database of prescription and addictive drugs to track prescriptions. As it stands now, there is no registry. Another proposal would restrict just who can operate a clinic to a doctor in good standing, not a convicted felon. That may be a proposal with little practical meaning. Many of the clinics have a doctor associated who can reap huge profits of about $100,000 a month by lending their name to a clinic. Another proposal would limit the number of drugs a clinic could dispense to 72-hours worth.
But the Florida Association of Pain Management Providers believes that would cripple businesses who are legitimately providing pain medication for those in need. That group suggests that clinics not covered by insurance, also report to the health care agency the amount of medications they are dispensing and to require intensive background checks on owners. Expect much discussion about this outstanding problem in Florida in March.