When it comes to the unsavory and downright illegal, South Florida owns the market in healthcare scams. Miami-Dade County is the nation's epicenter of Medicare fraud. Broward County is the state's biggest black market in prescription pain killers like oxycodone. By now, many of the pill mills should have been shut down. They're not.
Thanks to lax state oversight, walk-in pain clinics have flourished in Florida in the last three years. A 2009 Miami Herald series highlighted the proliferation of these pill mills. Broward clinics alone sell more oxycodone than is sold in several states. Anyone can get hundreds of pain pills from these clinics. The powerful narcotics are then resold on the street.
The growth of pain clinics, often run by discredited doctors, is causing an epidemic of prescription overdose deaths, says Florida drug czar Bruce Grant. The rate of deaths is about seven per day -- a shocking number that's preventable.
By now, these clinics were supposed to be regulated under tough new rules. Instead, most reforms are in limbo thanks to a contract dispute and a blunder by the Legislature during its November special session.
In 2009, the Legislature passed a bill to create a statewide database of all prescription narcotics sold by doctors and pharmacists to prevent patients from ``doctor shopping'' -- going to multiple clinics and doctors for pills to later resell. Tougher rules governing doctors working in pain clinics and who could own them are also in the new law.
The due date for the database was Dec. 1. The deadline came and went, however, because a company bidding on the project has legally challenged the contract award. Mr. Grant has asked Florida's surgeon general, Dr. Ana M. Viamonte Ros, to approve the contract on an emergency basis to protect public health.
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