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Brooksville gets it — Florida does not — on prescription drug abuse

The Brooksville City Council gets it. State Rep. Robert Schenck does not. To combat prescription drug abuse, the council advanced a local ordinance to control so-called pill mill pain clinics even though there is no such facility inside the municipal limits. Three days later, Schenck, R-Spring Hill, and the Florida House of Representatives approved a measure supposedly to achieve a similar goal.

It's a sham. Among the provisions, HB 7095 attempts to curtail a current state regulation — a soon-to-launch database to track drug prescriptions — by prohibiting the state from funding the database and from accepting donations from drug manufacturers to operate it. The annual cost is projected at $500,000 and the maker of OxyContin has offered to contribute more than $1 million.

Schenck calls it a fundamental flaw to raise money from manufacturers of the drugs that produced the epidemic. His hypocrisy is astounding. Schenck and the Republican Party of Florida have no such qualms in accepting campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies.

A bill, from Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, makes more sense. It includes no such private-sector prohibitions and repeals the state ban on funding.

In Brooksville, city leaders aren't waiting on duplicitous legislators. The city's ordinance, still subject to a final vote next month, will require pain-clinic operators to register with the state Department of Health before obtaining a city permit. It restricts where the clinics open, who they can employ and where their clients can congregate. The local controls are a followup to the pill-mill moratorium council approved last year.

Kudos to the council for being proactive. The Hernando Sheriff's Office has said it, too, will seek a countywide ordinance to try to stem the flow of illegal prescription drugs.

Pain management clinics, with on-site pharmacies accepting cash payments, are the main supply line for oxycodone — the most abused drug in Hernando — and other prescription painkillers flooding the streets. In the last three months of 2010, four pain clinics registered to operate in Hernando County, bringing to 16 the number of clinics here.

Florida's tardiness enacting a database to track people making multiple purchases of commonly abused prescription drugs like oxycodone, Vicodin and Xanax, allowed the state to become a haven for pain management clinics doubling as easy drug dispensers to cash-paying customers. The result has been seven deaths each day in Florida from prescription drug overdoses.

The local statistics are equally disturbing. In Hernando, six-month data from 2010 showed almost one death a week and the Sheriff's Office reported that more people had died of drug-related reasons (135) than traffic accidents (127) during a 42-month span. The Sheriff's Office also has said that 90 percent of the narcotics cases handled in Hernando are for prescription drugs and every category of crime, including home invasions and robberies, is affected by prescription drug abuse.

The House of Representatives answer is to try to obstruct funding for a legitimate tool to help combat the problem. No wonder local governments are passing their own laws instead.

Brooksville gets it — Florida does not — on prescription drug abuse 04/23/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 23, 2011 9:52am]
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