Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough sheriff seeks pharmacies' help in 'epidemic' of prescription drug abuse

TAMPA — Three to five people die every week in Hillsborough County from prescription drug overdoses, according to the Sheriff's Office.

So when the Florida Agency from Health Care Administration sent a letter to all sheriffs in the state asking them to reach out to pharmacists to help combat the problem, Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee took action.

Gee is sending letters to every drugstore in the county, asking pharmacists to closely inspect prescriptions written by out-of-state physicians or those for nonresidents. He is also asking that pharmacies not fill those prescriptions, if possible.

"Abuse increased exponentially over the past 10 years," said sheriff's Capt. Scott Wellinger, a 19-year veteran of the agency. "This is one tool in our kit."

Florida is notorious for being an easy place to get large amounts of oxycodone and other pain medications, according to Gee.

State records show overdoses killed 681 people in the Tampa Bay area last year. Oxycodone overdoses alone accounted for 128 deaths and methadone killed 81 people in Hillsborough County in 2009, according to medical examiner statistics.

Still, the letter seems a little presumptuous on the sheriff's part, said Paul Doering, distinguished service professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Florida.

"There is not a single word in that letter that we in the pharmacy profession are not acutely aware of," he said. "The biggest weapon against it is strict enforcement and prosecution of people who participate in prescription drug diversion."

Wellinger said there needs to be vigilance all levels — doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement and courts — for an anti-abuse initiative to be truly effective.

After the letters have been issued, the Sheriff's Office will continue its normal undercover operations, Wellinger said. There won't be any massive follow-up or compliance check of local pharmacies, he added. Gee's initiative is completely voluntary when it comes to the pharmacies.

"We're just asking for their help," sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said.

Gee acknowledges in the letter that the drugs benefit those dealing with intense pain.

"However, when used inappropriately, these drugs lead to horrible addiction, crimes committed to feed addiction, families destroyed, and ultimately death," he writes.

Gee's letter comes a day after the Pinellas County chapter of NOPE, Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education, held a vigil for victims of prescription drug overdoses.

Doering said all pharmacists have a right and responsibility to refuse to fill any prescription they believe is not issued in the course of regular medical practice.

In other arenas, Florida laws can make it difficult to meet the problem head on. It typically takes 18 months to bring disciplinary action against a doctor and it took the Legislature seven years to approve a system to monitor prescription drugs.

"(David Gee) is absolutely right that this is a huge problem of epidemic proportions. His letter signifies the desperation of how people are trying to come up with new ways to combat this problem," Doering said.

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or rmitchell@sptimes.com.

Hillsborough sheriff seeks pharmacies' help in 'epidemic' of prescription drug abuse 10/29/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 29, 2010 11:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Sheriff's Office: Drug dispute preceded fatal Largo motel shooting

    Crime

    LARGO — A fight over drugs preceded the shooting death of a 47-year-old man Thursday night at a Largo motel, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said Sunday.

    Angel E. Martinez, 24, is accused in the shooting death of Ricky Garland, 47, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. [Pinellas County Jail]
  2. Nearly 40 hospitalized on first day of Sunset Music Festival, on pace to exceed last year

    News

    To reduce the number of medical emergencies this year, sponsors of the Sunset Music Festival promised heightened security and safety measures during this weekend's event at Raymond James Stadium.

    Thousands of people crowd the main stage at the Sunset Music Festival on Saturday in the north Raymond James Stadium parking area. The temperature at the time of the photo was 92 degrees. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]
  3. Woman killed in overnight Temple Terrace apartment fire, city says

    Fire

    TEMPLE TERRACE — A woman died early Sunday as a result of a fire at an apartment complex, city officials said.

  4. Video: Indianapolis 500 drivers in fiery crash somehow walk away uninjured

    Auto racing

    Scott Dixon and Jay Howard avoided injury in a spectacular crash - or what Dixon labeled "a wild ride" afterward - during the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

  5. Homeland security chief defends Kushner's alleged proposal for 'back channel' to the Russians as 'a good thing"

    National

    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the lone administration official to speak out publicly about reports that Jared Kushner sought a back channel to communicate with the Russian government, defended the move, saying it was a "good thing" for the U.S. government.

    Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, listens during a meeting with small business leaders at the White House on Jan. 30. [Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford]