A year after creating a prescription drug “strike force,” Florida is moving from the “Oxy express” to a role model for the nation in cracking down on pill mills and illicit pain pill distribution, according to Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
The state’s Drug Enforcement Strike Force Teams, initiated by Scott with $800,000 last March, have seized almost 500,000 pills, 59 vehicles, 391 weapons and $4.7 million, according to Scott’s office. And they’ve made more than 2,150 arrests, including 34 doctors.
The dent in the illicit prescription drug trade comes from a combination of Scott’s “strike force” and tough laws – including restrictions limiting rogue doctors’ dispensing of drugs and the amount of drugs per patient they can prescribe – pushed by Bondi. Scott, Bondi, Bailey and a host of law enforcement and health officials boasted of the success at a press conference this afternoon.
“We have a long way to go,” Bondi, who testified before Congress on the issue last week, said, adding that the efforts have made a “tremendous difference in the war on prescription drugs.”
Last year, 90 of the country’s top 100 Oxycodone-purchasing doctors and 53 of the top 100 purchasing pharmacies were located in Florida. The number of doctors dropped 85 percent to 13 and the number of pharmacies went down to 19. And the number of pain clinics in the state has gone down from 800 to 508, according to Scott’s office.
And an interim report shows a nearly 8 percent drop in the number of people who prescription drug-related deaths in Florida from January through the end of June last year compared to the same six-month period the previous year.
From January 1 through July 1 last year, 1,173 people died with at least on prescription drug in their blood. The previous year, the 1,268 people died, a 7.9 percent decrease. Scott’s “strike force” was only in effect for half of that period and many of the restrictions on prescribing had not yet gone into effect. And the state’s prescription drug database was not yet up and running – that didn’t go online until October.
“This is a good news day,” Scott said, saying the drug force has had a “dramatic impact” over the past year. “People know now we are clearly the model.”
The crackdown on drug pushers is turning around the state’s reputation as the drug capital of the country, Bailey said.
“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,” he said. “While we have made tremendous strides, we’re just getting started. Prescription drug trafficking remains a significant concern for Florida law enforcement.”