Last week, the DEA announced the results of enforcement efforts directed at Florida’s illegal prescription drug distributors.
According to the DEA, more than 100 individuals have been arrested in operations targeting pill mills in Florida, and the DEA, as well as Florida law enforcement, will continue to investigate and prosecute pain clinics, pharmacies and physicians who are contributing to Florida’s prescription drug trafficking epidemic.
Operation Pill Nation I, initiated in February 2011 in South Florida, has resulted in the arrest of 47 people, including 17 doctors and five clinic owners, and the seizure of more than $18.9 million in cash and assets. Furthermore, over 70 doctors, six pharmacy owners and five DEA Registered Controlled Substance Distributors have been stripped of their DEA registrations.
Operation Pill Nation II has resulted in enforcement actions against 22 individuals and one pharmacy allegedly involved in the illegal distribution of prescription drugs.
The DEA also announced the addition of a third Tactical Diversion Squad in Florida. Based in Orlando, this new group will be responsible for investigating prescription drug diversion in Central Florida.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, this new squad was created solely to investigate the illegal use and distribution of prescription drugs in the Orlando area. Currently, the Orlando squad is investigating doctors and pharmacies, their first case involves a Winter Park pharmacy.
Howell Branch Road’s The Medicine Shoppe is under investigation. It’s pharmacist is accused of providing more than 15,000 oxycodone pills that were illegally distributed.
Coinciding with the DEA’s announcements, was the investigation of Tampa pill mills. DEA agents, and Florida state and local law enforcement executed six search warrants and served two immediate suspension orders to a doctor and a pharmacy in Tampa. Immediate suspension orders revoke authority to dispense or prescribe controlled substances.
Earlier this year, the DEA commissioned a pill mill hotline in Florida. This 24-hour pill mill tip line and e-mail address allow the public to provide information on suspicious pain clinics. Additionally, laws targeting pill mills were passed that makes it much more difficult to dispense narcotics at a clinic. However, the DEA’s raids will continue in order to eradicate Florida’s pill mill problem.
George Indest is an attorney, board certified by the Florida Bar in Health Law, who represents health care professionals and providers, including pain management clinics and pain management physicians.