Florida Officials Say They Are Making Significant Gains in War Against “Pill Mills”

Florida is making significant gains in its war against “pill mill” clinics that sell oxycodone and other widely abused painkillers, state officials said this week.

In March 2011, the state created a statewide strike force to help regional law enforcement teams fight the illegal distribution of prescription drugs, according to Reuters. The move came after prosecutors called Florida the epicenter of a nationwide epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Much of the problem was attributed to pill mills, the storefront clinics that sold painkillers for cash. Many buyers were from other states, who resold the pills back home.

At a news conference this week, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that the state’s Drug Enforcement Strike Force Teams have taken almost half a million pills off of Florida’s streets. The teams have made 2,150 arrests, including 34 doctors.

“These teams are accomplishing exactly what they were created for by targeting the prescription drug abuse problem at its source—the pill mills, pain clinics and unscrupulous doctors that contribute to the illegal distribution of legal prescription drugs,” the governor said in a news release. “The strike force teams are getting drugs off our streets and saving lives. We’ve sent a clear message that Florida will not be known as the state that tolerates criminal drug distribution and abuse.”

“In one year, we’ve gone from being known as the ‘Oxy-express’ to being a role model for other states dealing with this problem,” said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey. “While we have made tremendous strides, we’re just getting started. Prescription drug trafficking remains a significant concern for Florida law enforcement.”

In February, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced sales of oxycodone fell 20 percent last year in Florida. Officials said the drop was mainly due to the closure of some of the state’s biggest pill mills and the arrest of some of the clinics’ operators and doctors.

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