Pill-mill bill easy for capital to swallow
PORT RICHEY - State lawmakers were writing a prescription this week to crack down on the peddling of pain medication. The "pill mill bill" would clamp down on pain clinics and their attending physicians, Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey, thinks. Legg hailed Wednesday's unanimous passage of the stricter regulations by the Florida House. After some last-minute adjustments, the Florida Senate passed the legislation, according to Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. The legislation now goes to Gov. Charlie Crist for consideration. The legislation "will crack down on the corrupt pain clinics operating around the state that have become a national problem," Legg said in a news release.Legg cited statistics that show the top 25 pain management clinics for dispensing prescription pain relievers are in Florida and the 50 doctors who dispense the most oxycodone in the entire country are in Florida. "We provide law enforcement with the tools they need to combat this deadly epidemic," Legg said. "This legislation will pull the plug on a cottage industry of illegitimate pill mills and pain clinics that are tearing apart the lives and families of so many Floridians." Fasano, the Senate president pro tempore, introduced the original bill, Senate Bill 2272. Two provisions were added in the House, and Fasano applauded the amendments, according to Greg Giordano, chief legislative assistant to Fasano. The 72-hour limit will control how much controlled substances a physician can dispense to people who pay by cash, check or credit card. Fasano also likes the ban on advertising the availability of controlled substances. "Doctors would not be able to put out an ad that says, 'Come to me, I dispense Vicodin,'" Giordano said, referring to the widely abused narcotic pain medicine. "Senator Fasano will concur with the House amendments and pass the bill on to the governor," Giordano said. Violations could lead to criminal and financial penalties, Legg said. The new rules would go into effect July 1. Physicians wishing to practice in a pain clinic will have to complete a pain medicine fellowship or residency, or be recognized as a specialist in pain by the appropriate licensing board, Legg explained. Doctors would not be able to dispense more than a 72-hour supply of controlled substances to a patient without a prescription. Violators of the dispensing limit will face a third-degree felony charge with up to 5 years in prison, or up to a $5,000 fine. The bill also forbids physicians from advertising or promoting the use, sale or dispensing of a controlled substance. Pain clinics will be required to register with the Department of Health, which will carry out annual inspections. Some physicians who have been disciplined would not be permitted to own or work at a pain clinic. Fines can amount up to $5,000 a day.