The strike force met in Orlando in March, more than 100 police, healthcare and state regulators, to form their battle plan against a state scourge: prescription drug abuse, a public health threat that has killed thousands and reduced Florida to a national symbol for rampant pill popping and peddling.
The strategy they came up with: Cut off the source by targeting doctors who freely dole out highly addictive pain killers with little or no medical need. A little more than five months later, the Department of Health has disciplined more than 75 medical practitioners, including a Lake City doctor with three patients who died of “the very medications” he had prescribed. And by July, Florida Surgeon General Frank Farmer Jr. had declared prescription drug abuse and diversion a public health crisis.
“We are attacking the point of supply. There is a full spectrum of people involved in ‘over prescription’ activities, from honest doctors who have been duped to the truly unscrupulous doctors who are seeing patients, writing prescriptions, collecting cash and committing health fraud,’’ said Jeff Beasley, Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent supervisor. “We can’t arrest our way out of this issue. We need the regulatory end of this too, because they have the power to put these bad doctors out of business.’’
Just last month, in an exercise of that regulatory power, the Department of Health yanked the medical license of Lake City’s Dr. Joseph Hernandez, who has Fort Lauderdale ties, saying he posed a public danger by giving out hundreds of excessive and inappropriate prescriptions even as he faced oxycodone trafficking charges in a separate case.
Read the complete story at miamiherald.com