Law enforcement is finally taking a stand against the outrageous pain pill epidemic in South Florida. Just yesterday, agents from the DEA, accompanied by deputies from the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, raided American Pain located in Lake Worth, Florida, Executive Pain located in West Palm Beach, Florida, and the East Coast Pain Clinic also located in West Palm Beach, Florida. These clinics are owned or operated by two twenty-nine year old twin brothers: Christopher George and Jeffrey George.
According to the Miami Herald, the agents and deputies seized boxes of records after serving search warrants on the clinics.
This case presents an interesting issue regarding the pain pill epidemic and prosecution of the pain centers. On the one hand, law enforcement should clearly be going after the source of the pills. At the present time, law enforcement has only pursued the end users. In many cases this has resulted in stiff prison sentences and probation for people who amount to nothing more than addicts.
On the other hand, pain clinics are entirely legal in Florida. Why should a doctor or a pain clinic owner be prosecuted criminally for doing something that is entirely legal?
The answer lies in the legitimacy of the medical treatment being provided by the pain centers. If law enforcement can prove that doctors have prescribed pain pills to people who have no legitimate medical need for them, then a criminal prosecution for fraudulent prescription writing may be viable. Pain doctors should also be investigated for prescribing narcotics in an escalating fashion. If there is no legitimate need to increase dosage or frequency, then these doctors are doing nothing more than making patients into addicts… which makes perfect sense since many of the same pain clinics that write the prescriptions also sell the pills!
Doesn’t that sounds like a conflict of interest to you?
One must also wonder about the pharmacists who fill these prescriptions. How many months have to go by before a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription for a young, able bodied patient who presents ever increasing prescriptions month after month with no end in sight? Some patients take over 300 Oxycontin pills a month… that is over 10 pills a day or a pill every other hour! At what point does a pharmacist have a duty to step in and call an addict out for what he really is?
Ultimately, new legislation will be required to fix this epidemic. If I could make a recommendation to the Florida Legislature it would be to do two things. First, they should ban pain clinics from both writing prescriptions and dispensing pills at the same time. The conflict of interest is clear.
Second, the Legislature should create a statewide prescription database. Creating the database is easy and cheaper than arresting, jailing, and prosecuting offenders. It could be maintained using cloud computing and would be accessible only by licensed doctors, pharmacists, and law enforcement. This system would mirror the “D.A.V.I.D.” system used by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to keep track of driver licenses and vehicle registrations.
Simply put, doctors would logon to the system and upload prescriptions to the database by filling out a simple online form. The prescription would then be given a unique identification number by the system. This number would be printed on the actual paper prescription that the patient would present to the pharmacist.
Before a pharmacist fills the prescription, he or she would access the online database and confirm that the prescription being presented by the customer is legitimate, that it perfectly matches the online record, and has not yet been filled by another pharmacy/pharmacist. Prior to dispensing the medication, the pharmacist will mark the online prescription as “filled” so that the same prescription cannot be filled again.
By creating this simple system, we will be able to put an immediate stop to all doctor shopping and fraudulent prescription writing overnight. Aside from the obvious law enforcement benefit, this would also save the State from wasting money on arresting, jailing, and prosecuting people who doctor shop or write fraudulent prescriptions. I bet the savings would be in the millions of dollars!
If the cost savings were not enough to fund the system, the State could levy a flat tax of $1.00 per transaction. If you are using pain pills, there is no doubt that you can sport a $1.00 fee per prescription filled. These prescriptions are usually filled on a monthly basis – unless of course you are doctor shopping!
Regardless, at the end of the day the Government needs to wake up and enact realistic and practical solutions to this problem. At a time when our State budget is in crisis, any plan that will save money AND cure a major social problem at the same time is a great idea!