Governor Richard Scott, of Florida, signed into law the state’s “pill mill” legislation, which looks to curb the proliferation of illicit pain clinics in a state that has grown to symbolize the abuse, misuse and diversion of opioid analagesics.

Mr. Scott (R), a former health care executive who has vehemently opposed certain aspects of the legislation, signed the bill in Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale is in Broward County, which has 24 of the nation’s top 50 prescribers of the opioid oxycodone. Of the top 50 prescribers, 49 are located in Florida. A local news station reported in March that the state is home to more pain clinics than McDonald’s or Burger Kings.
“I am proud to sign this bill which cracks down on the criminal abuse of prescription drugs,” Mr. Scott told the Associated Press. “This legislation will save lives in our state and it marks the beginning of the end of Florida’s infamous role as the nation’s Pill Mill Capital.”
The new law mandates the creation of a state-wide prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), delineates narrow conditions to establish a pain management clinic, limits the amount of controlled substances physicians can prescribe, imposes harsh penalties on physicians who violate the law ($10,000 minimum fines, six-month suspensions) and restricts advertisement of pain treatment centers, among other measures.
Since taking office in January, Mr. Scott has spent much of his time as governor trying to squash the propsed PDMP, raising the ire of the state’s congressional leadership, law enforcement officials and the Florida Society of Pain Management Providers (FSPMP). The FSPMP has cited the PDMP as the most important aspect of the legislation, and went as far as to call it “the single most important weapon in the war on [prescription] drug abuse.”
In January, the governor eliminated the state’s Office of Drug Control, which had been tasked with raising funds for the monitoring program. In addition to concerns over the state’s being stuck with the PDMP bill should funding dry up, Mr. Scott described the program as a massive violation of patient privacy. He pointed to what he described as a “massive privacy breach” of Virginia’s PDMP that occurred in 2009, in which 8.2 million patient records were illegally accessed. Mr. Scott argued that the government should not be involved in tracking the activities of law-abiding people in order to uncover a smaller subset of criminals.
—PMN Staff