The numbers are so startling. You wonder how a governor, even an ideologue of a governor, can ignore the implications.
Dave Aronberg, special prosecutor with the attorney general’s office, recited the statistics behind Florida’s mad, unfettered pain pill commerce Wednesday. You wondered why the very weight of those stats hasn’t crushed the new governor’s objections to monitoring oxycodone sales.
Aronberg, the newly anointed pill mill czar, told a gathering at the health professions division of Nova Southeastern University that Florida peddles 10 times more oxycodone pills than all the other states together. How 85 percent of oxy pills sold in the U.S. come out of Florida. How all 50 of the top 50 medical prescribers come from Florida, most (33) from Broward County.
Broward, the czar noted, reprising that now famous illustration of the oxycodone scandal, has more pill mills (117) than McDonald’s hamburger joints (70).
So many oxy pills were sold in 2009 in Broward (5.2 million), Palm Beach (2.4 million) and Miami-Dade counties (646,000) that no one, not even some ideologue wedded to the far fringes of Tea Party thinking, could argue that South Florida wasn’t supplying contraband for drug dealers and addicts across the eastern U.S.
Yet, Gov. Rick Scott has promised to repeal the state law authorizing a prescription drug monitoring database.
Aronberg, almost in David Letterman style, described telltale characteristics that a so-called pain clinic might be a pill mill. “If the medical clinic is located between a tattoo parlor and a pawn shop,” he began, a remark that sounded facetious only to someone who hasn’t toured Broward’s low-rent oxy joints.
Aronberg spoke of no insurance, cash-only operations. With little in the way of medical supplies. “Some of these places don’t even have tongue depressors.” And no medical solutions other than pain pills. With security guards at the front door. With maybe a Rottweiler guarding the receptionists. With long lines in a waiting room reminiscent of a state driver’s license bureau. With a parking lot crowded with cars with out-of-state plates and intimidating strangers loitering on the sidewalks.
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