Florida: Drug strike force battles 'prescription drug pipeline'
Representatives of the state Department of Health, Department of Law Enforcement, and the Florida Regional Drug Enforcement Strike Forces are visiting physicians' offices to ensure compliance with H.B. 7095. The legislation was recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.
The law targets prescription drug distribution by banning doctors from dispensing controlled substances except under specific circumstances. It also increases penalties for overprescribing oxycodone and other controlled substances, requires tracking of the wholesale distribution of certain controlled substances, and provides support for the efforts of state agencies, state and local law enforcement and state prosecutors.
According to the Florida Department of Health:
- More oxycodone is dispensed in Florida than in the remaining states combined.
- In 2010, 98 of the top 100 doctors dispensing oxycodone nationally were in Florida.
- In 2010, 126 million oxycodone pills were dispensed through the top 100 dispending pharmacies in Florida.
State Health Officer and Surgeon General Dr. Frank Farmer issued a statewide public health emergency declaration on July 1. It requires practitioners who are no longer authorized to dispense controlled substances to dispose of any inventory and cooperate with Florida officials.
The DOH identified dispensing physicians who purchased more than an average of 2,000 unit doses of controlled substances listed in Schedule II or Schedule III per month in the previous six month as those who "pose the greatest threat to the public health." Members of the strike force are inspecting the offices of 23 physicians, mostly in south Florida.
During the inspections, the physician has the option of surrendering the controlled substances for destruction, surrendering them to law enforcement to be quarantined while the physician determines if they can be returned to the wholesaler, or requesting that the substances be quarantined at the location of the clinic or practice, according to the DOH. "The role of the Strike Forces in the inspections is to safeguard and secure the drugs, either on-site or at a law enforcement agency."
The public health emergency declaration will remain in effect for 60 days from July 1, unless it is amended or rescinded, or renewed. Meanwhile, Farmer issued a supplemental order to the declaration to suspend one of the requirements of providers.
The DOH had required that medical providers use only the approved counterfeit proof prescription pads for any controlled substance. An unintended consequence has been that "pharmacies have refused to fill otherwise legitimate prescriptions for controlled substances because the prescriptions were not written on the approved counterfeit proof prescription pads," the DOH said.
The department identified and listed on its website 91 approved vendors from which practitioners can purchase the prescription pads. Farmer urged all state licensed health care practitioners to visit the DOH website and order the counterfeit proof prescription pads. The supplemental order is in effect for 60 days.
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July 18, 2011
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