This week, Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 7095 saying that the new law “will crack down on illegal prescription drug abuse in Florida.” He also hopes it will be a “model for the nation,” as it increases penalties for those who overprescribe Oxycodone and requires that distribution of certain pills be tracked.
In addition, law enforcement and state prosecutors will now have an additional resources – $3 million – to combat Florida’s earned reputation as the “Pill Mill Capital” (Scott’s words) and the burgeoning illegal prescription drug market known as the “Oxy Express” (also Scott’s words).
The bill bans most doctors from dispensing these controlled drugs (except under specific circumstances), requiring them to be distributed through pharmacies. It also triggers a mandatory buyback program so that doctors have to return their pill stashes back to distributors.
In his weekly radio address, Scott pointed to an alarming statistic: seven people a day die of drug overdoses, although he didn’t say how many of those deaths were due to prescription, and how many were as a result of street drugs.
The governor also said that we’re number one. Number one in the nation when it comes to the number of Oxycodone dispensaries, that is (try fitting that on a cake). And of the 100 biggest dispensers in the nation, Florida is home to 98 of them. Probably won’t find those fun statistics on the state’s VISIT FLORIDA tourism-booster website.
This overly-free market of pharmaceuticals fuels underground criminal activity. Scott acknowledged this in March when he formed, with the help of Attorney General Pam Bondi and law enforcement, the Statewide Drug Strike Force to “begin turning the tide against criminal drug trafficking in our state.”
No bones about it, the illegal prescription drug trade is a huge problem in Florida. It was such a big problem that a pro-business governor and the small government state legislature was forced to act, even against all inclinations to keep their hands off the industry, per the Republican Party line.
It was a, ahem, bitter pill for them to swallow, for sure.
The governor looks great on his radio address
The Governor’s Medical Records
The governor, himself a former medical-industry mega-player as the one of the founders of of Columbia Hospital Corporation, which later merged into health giant Columbia/HCA to become the biggest private for-profit in the industry. Scott was acting CEO when the company was fined a record 600 million and received 14 felonies for systematically committing Medicare fraud and engaging in dubious business practices.
Scott was also a former major investor in the Solantic health-services chain. He divested from the company earlier this year – pocketing $60 million for his troubles (to be fair, he actually lost a couple of million on the deal) – in an attempt to get rid of any challenges to pending legislation under the grounds of Scott having a conflict of interest in the matter.
The bill mandating drug testing of welfare cash recipients, recently signed into law by Scott, would have certainly drawn sharp criticism as Solantic performs drug screens. And in the case of the Pill Mill Bill, Scott’s possible dual role as both owner and regulator of Solantic would have been seen as the proverbial fox watching the hen house.
Even though he could have argued his case, it was politically wise for Scott to sell his substantial stake in the company.
Bondi Watches Scott Sign Pill Mill Bill
Little Help From His Friends
Sure, he signed it by himself and he wants the credit for saving lives, but it wasn’t a one-man show. There were the little people who helped along the way. His supporting cast included Bondi, legislative leaders (yes, he was that general) and law enforcement officials.
They’ve come up with, in Scott’s words, ” a comprehensive plan to tackle this issue at the source, and reverse the growing trend of illegal pill mills operating in Florida.”
- Mark Christopher