This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.
Now that South Florida, and Broward County in particular, has earned the disreputable distinction of being a place where doctors dispense painkiller drugs as if they were Halloween candy, the state Legislature has decided to act. Lawmakers are reviewing several bills that would boost regulatory oversight of the clinics and give police some of the tools they need to go after unscrupulous operators. It's about time.
In a two–day Miami Herald Watchdog special report, writer Scott Hiaasen showed why Broward County is considered the painkiller capital of the United States. The report describes how Broward has recently become the unofficial national headquarters for a thriving black market in dangerous prescription drugs, especially oxycodone.
The drugs are sold in clinics owned by secretive contractors who hire doctors to dispense the pills. The owners aggressively advertise on billboards and bus benches how easy it is to get "pain relief." This setup effectively gives the owners cover from state healthcare regulators who monitor doctors' practices and insured medical clinics.
The shady operators blend easily among reputable businesses that follow the rules, screen their patients and dispense medications to people who have genuine aches and pains. The number of pain clinics has increased so quickly that there are 150 in South Florida today, compared to only 60 a year ago. Of those, 89 clinics are in Broward, making it the epicenter of illicit prescription drug operations. Just as quickly as the clinics have sprouted, word has spread beyond Broward to Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, West Virginia and other states about the ease of getting a narcotic fix in South Florida.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.