The U.S. death toll from overdose deaths from painkillers has exploded from less than 4,000 in 2000 to more than 11,000 in 2007, according to the most recent statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With much of the emphasis on physicians' prescribing practices, the federal government has set a goal to cut the abuse of oxycodone and other opioids by 15 percent in five years through education, stepped-up law enforcement, and pill-tracking databases, according to the Associated Press.
In Florida, painkiller abuse claims 2,500 lives per year, or seven per day. However, new legislation (Florida HB 7095) signed into law on June 3 stiffens regulations and penalties for physicians, pharmacies, and wholesale distributors of controlled substances. Proponents of the ‘pill mill bill' claim it will save lives in Florida and beyond.
"We have model legislation. We've been more aggressive than the rest of the country in what we're doing, and I believe this will have a dramatic impact," said Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fl.), who originally opposed the Prescription Drug Monitoring Database created by the bill. In its final form, however, the law requires physicians to submit data on prescriptions written for controlled substances within seven days, versus the 15 days originally proposed.
Other key provisions of Florida HB 7095 include:
- It is now a third-degree felony for most physicians to dispense controlled substances from their offices, with exceptions for board-certified pain doctors, surgeons, methadone clinics, clinical trials and hospice.
- Manufacturers will be required to buy back Schedule II and III controlled substances from physicians at the price originally paid.
- Law enforcement will receive $3 million to help crack down on illegal activity surrounding prescription drugs.
- Physicians must use approved, counterfeit-proof prescription pads when prescribing a controlled substance.
- Doctors who overprescribe painkillers will be penalized with minimum fines of $10,000 and six-month suspensions.
- Pharmacists who "knowingly fail" to tell local police if someone tries to fraudulently get drugs can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor.
- Certain pain-management clinics will be required to register with the state, and doctors must notify state officials when they begin and stop working at these clinics.