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Senate approves pill mill bill with unanimous vote; measure heads to House

With a unanimous vote, the Senate passed legislation Friday intended to crack down on Florida's pill mills. Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, sponsored the legislation.

"If we get this to the governor by the end of the day, Florida will no longer be known as the pill mill capital of the world," Fasano said, calling operators of the sketchy clinics "nothing more than drug traffickers."

Senator Mike Fasano, R- New Port Richey, greets Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Friday on the Senate floor after the Senate passed Fasano's Pill Mill bill.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has made the state's prescription drug abuse epidemic a top priority, was on the dais with Senate President Mike Haridopolos during discussion of the measure, which has been on hold for more than a week while the Senate and House hashed out differences on how best to approach the problem.

The final product includes elements requested by both chambers, including a prescription drug monitoring database, a dispensing ban for most doctors, and movement toward a monthly dosage cap on dispensing for pharmacies. The bill also includes legislation requested by Bondi to increase penalties for doctors who overprescribe narcotics.

Bondi said she had her last conversation with House Speaker Dean Cannon on the deal at 3 a.m. She predicted passage in the House later today and that Gov. Rick Scott would sign the bill.

She sent this message to operators of pill mills that have earned Florida the "OxyContin Express" nickname: "These guys better get ready to get out of the state."

Debate on the bill consisted of Senators heaping praise on Fasano, who often irks his colleagues with his intensity, for pressing for passage of the bill. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, called Fasano the "champion of the little guys and girls."

"As you look back at your distinguished career in this legislature, the real tribute, the real reward, the real take-home bill for you will be in the eyes and faces of those children and adults whose lives you have saved because of this bill," said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

Estimates are that prescription drugs kill seven people every day in Florida.

"I will bet everyone in this room today has been affected in some way, because you know someone, a relative, a friend, a neighbor, someone in your church, your business, who has been affected by this epidemic," Fasano said before the vote.

Left to Right: Senator Nancy Detert, R-Venice congratulates Senator Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi hugs Senator Mike Fasano, R- New Port Richey.

[Photos by: SCOTT KEELER | Times]

In photos: The final week of the 2011 legislative session