A combination of tough new laws and a high-profile crackdown is chipping away at Florida's dubious distinction as the nation's leading illicit source of powerful prescription painkillers for drug addicts and dealers, federal and state officials said Wednesday.
New U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration figures show that the number of oxycodone pills purchased by Florida doctors dropped 97 percent from 2010 to 2011, mainly due to a state law that took effect July 1 banning clinics and doctors from dispensing them.
Yet the DEA numbers also show a 14 percent drop in Florida pharmacy purchases of oxycodone over the same time period, even counting a small increase in the first three months of 2011. The decline at pharmacies coincided with the takedown in February of a network of Broward County-based "pill mills" that used some 1,600 Internet sites to attract thousands of addicts and drug dealers.
Florida's efforts were further bolstered when the state last year finally launched a prescription drug monitoring program aimed at curbing doctor-shopping and tracking physicians who prescribe unusually large amounts of oxycodone and other painkillers. The program had to overcome opposition from Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who questioned it as an intrusion into privacy and possibly ineffective.
In yet another statistic, in 2010, 90 of the nation's top 100 physicians who purchased oxycodone were located in Florida, In 2011, that number dropped to just 13 of the top 100.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has made combatting pill mills a top state priority, said the "the drastic decline in the sale of oxycodone in Florida is a sure sign that the tough laws we enacted are working. Our work is far from over, we will continue to fight until every bad doctor and clinic is out of our state."
The numbers come from a DEA system that tracks controlled substances such as oxycodone at every stage from manufacturer until they are dispensed. The numbers are still staggering in Florida -- nearly 500 million oxycodone doses were purchased by doctors and pharmacies in 2011 -- but it's clear on the street that things are changing.
While oxycodone is a very dangerous drug when abused, for whatever reason, those geniuses in our state legislature have deemed oxycodone trafficking to be the most serious offense in Florida. Since oxycodone trafficking does not require the state to prove sale, intent to sell, or transportation of the drug, if you are an addict and in possession of more than 28 grams without a prescription, you face a 25-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.
Even for small amounts of the drug (4 grams or less), you still face a minimum 3 years in prison.