Gov. Scott: Task force denting pill mill business

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and representatives from several law enforcement agencies reported Wednesday that they had put a big dent into the business of illegally selling prescription drugs.

Flanked by law enforcement leaders and Attorney General Pam Bondi at a news conference, Scott said 213 illegal pill mill clinics were shut down in the past year and 34 doctors were arrested for their roles. Florida once had the unwanted distinction of having 93 of its doctors among the top 100 illegal pill dispensers nationwide, giving the state the reputation of the nation's pill-mill capital. That number was knocked down to 13 in 2011 by Florida authorities, Scott said.

Authorities confiscated nearly 450,000 pills, 589 vehicles, and $4.7 million cash, according to charts used by Scott at the briefing. And, they pointed out that the special task force created to crack down on the industry was in effect for only three months in 2011.

"We clearly recognize that we have a long way to go," said Bondi, who made eradicating Florida's pill mill epidemic a major goal in her first term. "We have to show we can make some difference in this war on prescription drugs. We're fighting it from all fronts ... and we'll continue that fight."

Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Gerald Bailey said that despite success in slowing down the illegal dispensing of prescription drugs, the issue remains a significant concern. He noted that prescription drugs kill more Floridians than illicit drugs do.

Scott signed a new Florida law a year ago that included penalties for doctors who over-prescribe painkillers and tightened rules for operating pharmacies.

The state activated a database six months ago to track prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanas and Valium that contain controlled substances. The program has received two federal justice assistance grants totaling $800,000 as well as $42,000 from the nonprofit National Association of State Controlled Substances Authorities and $240,660 in private donations raised by the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Foundation.

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