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Hillsborough County considers pain clinic curbs

TAMPA — Hillsborough County could join the growing chorus of local governments attempting to block the spread of questionable pain management clinics.

Commissioners voted 4-0, with three board members absent, to explore a moratorium on the opening of so-called pill mills that dole out prescription medication.

Hillsborough would join Pinellas County, where commissioners passed similar restrictions Tuesday to rein in prescription drug abuse. As in Pinellas, the measure would last only until Oct. 1, when tougher state regulations go into effect under a bill expected to be signed into law.

Communities across Florida have seen a dramatic spike in the number of pain management clinics. Many are blamed for dispensing dangerous and frequently abused prescription drugs to people with few questions asked.

A 2008 St. Petersburg Times investigation showed that prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs were responsible for three times as many deaths as illegal drugs.

Hillsborough officials are giving close attention to rules passed in Pinellas temporarily prohibiting new pain management clinics from opening and requiring owners of existing ones to register or face closure.

Hillsborough Commissioner Rose Ferlita, a pharmacist, brought the proposal forward Wednesday.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner said he already had been working with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on creating an ordinance for the board to consider later this month.

"There is a dire need to do something in our county," Beckner said. "Our kids are dying, and prescription pills and overdoses are becoming a large factor in the deaths of our teenage kids in this county."

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com.

Hillsborough County considers pain clinic curbs 05/05/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 11:56pm]
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