Florida has become known for prescription drug abuse. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, of the 50 practitioners who dispensed the most oxycodone in the country in 2008-09, 49 of them were in Florida, making Florida a destination for drug traffickers and addicts. Some Florida practitioners are prescribing and dispensing lethal amounts of controlled substances without providing any real medical care.
Most Florida doctors are dedicated professionals, but a few disreputable medical professionals are profiting by prescribing and dispensing addictive drugs. These physicians often have no ongoing clinical relationship with patients and provide no general medical care — their only undertaking is to prescribe and dispense these dangerous controlled substances.
Unfortunately, regulating and tracking the problem alone will not solve this epidemic. Florida attempted to shut down the pill mill industry with the passage of legislation in 2009 and 2010 that established strict pain clinic regulation and the prescription drug monitoring program. While these measures are well intended, they will simply not stop the problem. We must stop these drugs from being dispensed at the source and prevent them from being circulated in our neighborhoods.
Recent studies clearly demonstrate that states that have implemented a PDMP have not had a decrease in drug-related deaths. In fact, all states have experienced increases in death rates since 1999, indicating that the creation of a PDMP does not significantly change the amount of drug-related deaths.
New data presented sharply focuses on the problem of "dispensing practitioners." Florida has more of these doctor-dealers compared to the rest of the United States, and they are purchasing and dispensing medically unbelievable amounts of these dangerous and addictive drugs.
The statistics are alarming. Nearly half of all practitioners in the country who buy and dispense methadone are in Florida, and they purchased more than 93 percent of all the methadone sold to practitioners.
The supply of oxycodone purchased by practitioners is also alarming. Practitioners — which in Florida can only be physicians — purchased 85 percent of the oxycodone sold and distributed to practitioners in the entire country. Those physicians bought enough oxycodone to dispense 100 times the amount per Florida resident than supplied by practitioners in the rest of the country.
This data clearly indicates to me is that our state's prescription drug abuse epidemic stems from a dispensing problem. And instead of merely tracking the dispensing and sale of these controlled substances, we need a front-end solution that cuts the supply off at its source.
Working together and supporting a ban on the dispensing and direct sale of controlled substances, state and local officials, law enforcement and the medical community can cut to the heart of this critical problem. Under the proposed dispensing ban, physicians will still prescribe medically necessary controlled substances, but patients will need to go to a pharmacy to get their pills. The proposal will also provide for distributors to buy back medications from doctors and authorize immediate action to prevent any inappropriate or unlawful disposal of those drugs. An across-the-board ban on the dispensing and direct sale of dangerous controlled substances is immediate action that can effectively stop drug pushers disguised as doctors.
Now is the time to take decisive action to save the lives of the estimated seven Floridians who die each day from prescription drug abuse. Your support is needed to ban the direct dispensing of controlled substances and prevent these additive medications and the doctor-dealers who dispense them from destroying lives, families and our communities.
John Legg, R-Port Richey, is speaker pro tempore of the Florida House.