Another South Florida pill mill was busted by federal agents this month, adding to Florida’s increasingly negative reputation as one of the worst drug trafficking states.
According to the Miami Herald, 24 people were indicted on charges of defrauding Medicare while distributing oxycodone and oxymorphone across Miami-Dade and Broward counties. These healthcare providers were involved in a distribution network allegedly worth $40 million.
Five pain management clinics in Miami, Hialeah and Plantation served as fronts for the fraud. A physician wrote prescriptions for oxycodone and oxymorphone to beneficiaries of Medicare and other prescription-drug insurance plans at these five clinics. Allegedly, these beneficiary patients were involved in the clinics’ scheme. The patients would then fill the prescriptions at certain pharmacies throughout Miami that were also involved in the network. When the prescriptions were filled, the pharmacy owners would bill Medicare, knowing that the drugs were unnecessary for the patients.
This bust follows a string of other DEA, DOH, and FDLE raids in Florida, including one in August. According to the Miami Herald, August’s Operation Oxy Alley involved pill mills being targeted as organized-crime for the first time. The country’s four largest pain clinics (located in Palm Beach and Broward Counties) were targeted, resulting in the arrest of 32 individuals, including 13 doctors.
Operation Pill Nation, the predecessor to Operation Oxy Alley, targeted pain management clinics in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. An effort to crackdown on Florida pill mills and drug trafficking perpetuated by medical clinics and doctors, Operation Pill Nation and similar investigations have resulted in the shutting down of clinics throughout South Florida according to the Palm Beach Post.
South Florida is not the only region where pill mills are running rampant. The entire state of Florida has been pegged by the DEA as one of the worst in terms of drug trafficking and about 85 percent of all oxycodone sold comes from Florida. Pain management clinics, pharmacies, pharmacists and doctors in Jacksonville, Melbourne, Mount Dora, Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach have been busted by Florida and federal agencies (DEA, DOH, FDLE) for unlawfully dispensing powerful narcotics, like oxycodone, to any patient that came in the door. In one instance, buyers of highly addictive oxycodone and Xanax, came all the way from Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee to get their fix at a Jacksonville pill mill.
The DEA and other federal and state agencies carry out relentless investigations in order to bust these clinics and doctors. Acting as patients, they may bribe a receptionist in order to immediately see a doctor, and then present unrelated symptoms in order to get a narcotics prescription. Drug companies also become involved in targeting pill mills, as they report any clinic or physician who orders narcotics in large quanities (like this Florida doctor who prescribed over 250,000 oxycodone pills in eight months).
Although the crackdown on pill mills and drug trafficking in Florida has eliminated many illegitimate practices, there have been serious consequences for any patient with real pain. Physicians are wary of writing any painkiller prescription, even for a patient whose pain warrants a stronger prescription.
If you are a pharmacist or physician dealing with pain management in Florida, be aware of the recent raids and learn more about what you can do to prevent the DEA, DOH, FDLE or local police from knocking on your door. Visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or read this article on the DEA‘s involvement in the healthcare field for more information.