For the second straight year, Florida lawmakers have approved strict new rules for pain clinics, this time limiting the number of pills that can be sold to cash-paying patients, curbing advertising and imposing tougher standards for doctors and clinic owners.
Lawmakers hope the new rules passed Thursday will cripple South Florida's flourishing pain-clinic industry, the prime source of illegal prescription drugs in the eastern United States. These clinics, which number almost 1,000 statewide, have also been blamed for a statewide epidemic of prescription-pill overdoses.
Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to sign the bill, which passed unanimously in both chambers.
``The crime rate has skyrocketed where these places have sprung up,'' said Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey, a chief sponsor of the reforms in the House of Representatives. ``Hopefully once and for all we'll shut down the Flamingo Express, as it's known in other states.''
Until last year, many freestanding clinics offering painkillers or prescriptions operated with virtually no state oversight. More than 200 clinics opened in the past three years in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, many of them enticing customers with blaring ads on bus benches and in alternative newspapers. Some clinics offered discount coupons.
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