"Prescription Drug Abuse Touches Everyone"

Dr. Jennifer O'Flannery Anderson, Ph.D.
March 17, 2010

The nonmedical misuse and abuse of prescription pain medications along with the explosion of pain clinics has become a critical public health and safety concern for our community.  As part of our Community Impact agenda, we at United Way of Broward County through our Commission on Substance Abuse see  our role as voicing a call to action to eradicate this epidemic.

Only a few short years ago, the term “Pill Mills” did not register for many of us.  Unfortunately, our community has now been dubbed by the media as the “Pill Mill capital of the nation”.   The abuse of legal prescription drugs has skyrocketed.  An average of six Floridians die each day from a lethal prescription drug overdose –nearly four times as many deaths as from all illegal drugs combined.  Often the illegal prescription drug of choice is oxycodone, a very strong narcotic commonly prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain which also has a high potential for addiction and abuse. In tandem with this, the rate of non-accredited pain clinics opening in our community has been staggering- now totaling over 115– and better known as “pill mills.”  A pain clinic can be a doctor’s office, clinic, or health care facility. There are many legitimate clinics in our community that do service bona fide patients in need of care and prescribed medications.  “Pill Mill” operators are those who routinely conspire in the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances outside the scope of the prevailing standards of medical practice in the community.  They have no medical interest in treating pain or medical conditions. They are, plain and simple, pushing pills out of their greed to get rich.  Broward County has become the epicenter in the nation for these clinics.  Of the top  50 doctors in the nation who dispensed oxycodone directly from their offices, 25 were from Broward.  This means several things for our community: increase in criminal activity, accelerated costs related to treatment/medical expenses, and Medicaid fraud. All of this occurs while people are dying, families and lives are devastated, and the general health of our community is reduced. 

The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program legislation passed during last year’s legislative session creates a system giving physicians and pharmacists the ability to log each filled prescription into a state database to help medical professionals prevent abusers from obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors.  Florida is now one of 40 states which have initiated such a program, although implementation and operation of our system is not funded.  The Legislature requires private funds be raised to support the database, and the responsibility for this funding falls on the shoulders of the businesses and residents of Florida.  Being dead center in the “pill mills” and prescription drug addiction storm, we in Broward County must demonstrate our support of this initiative and help identify funding sources. 

The United Way of Broward County’s Commission on Substance Abuse is committed to implementing a strategic approach that will help erase the “pill-mill” reputation from Broward County.  Get involved.  Go to www.unitedwaybroward.org for more information.

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